• To investigate the ambidextrous challenges and tensions of small and medium enterprises in the United Kingdom defence & security sector

      Wall, Tony; Moore, Neil; Lewis, Christopher C. (University of Chester, 2021-05)
      The defence and security industry is an extremely dynamic environment, influenced by policy and world events. Whilst it often needs to respond to rapid change, there is a dichotomy in that capital programs take years to come to fruition. Many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are involved in both of these short and long-term aspects of acquisition, thus creating strategic challenges. Though there has been much research around ambidexterity and SMEs, there has been very little in the fluid domain of defence and security supply-side SMEs. This study aims to investigate this gap in research. The investigation collected primary qualitative data through the use of semi-structured interviews, with research participants constituting the leadership functions of eighteen businesses that deliver either directly to the defence and security governmental departments, or into the supply chain. Findings indicate that within a shrinking defence sector, successful SMEs are operating in an ambidextrous fashion, often utilising the industrial partners of the industry trade organisations. Also, outside that of grand strategic change, Government policy has a limited impact on the SMEs in this sector. With scarce resources, the leadership of businesses see the competing needs of resource and finances as a major tension point. These two competing needs can be defined as exploration and exploitation respectively, and can be situated within an ambidextrous construct. Critically, successful businesses operate in a ambidextrous zone where there is constant iterative adjustment between both exploration and exploitation. This thesis advances the thought leadership in SME strategy, particularly around the key indigenous industry of defence and security, thereby adjusting the understanding of the definition of ambidexterity. This study contributes to the current literature, through the development of an alternative and responsive conceptual dynamic model of a growing business, theorising that ambidexterity functions change as SMEs grow, are constantly evolving, and are adjusted by both internal and external influences. The study concludes with recommendations for practice.