Achieving Peak Performance
New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Cary L. Cooper and Ronald J. Burke
Chapter 6: On Learning in High-Performing Small and Medium-sized Businesses and the Relationship to HR Practices
Timothy L. Pett and James A. Wolff INTRODUCTION There has been growing interest in small and medium-sized enterprises (henceforth SMEs) during the last two decades. SMEs have been recognized as a key element for economic development in developed and developing economies. As examination into large-scale enterprise becomes finer grained and advances in understanding are at the margin, many investigators have begun to apply the concepts employed in large firm study to the realm of SMEs. This is not to say that SMEs are simply smaller versions of their larger counterparts. Indeed, there is ample evidence to the contrary. However, applying large firm conceptual models to the examination of SMEs is an important start in the process through which greater understanding can be gained. In this process research has shown the SMEs are not a homogeneous cluster of entities to which common conclusions apply and common practices can be ascribed. SMEs represent the vast majority of business entities in developed (in excess of 95 percent of businesses in the US and the EU) and developing economies and have a significant impact upon those economies. As such they are fertile ground for the application of research effort to gain an understanding of how SMEs work. A key area in understanding SMEs has been performance related with the primary question being why some SMEs are able to achieve high levels of performance while others are unable to achieve the goals established by their owners or managers. One theme in the research literature is...
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