The Role of Ambidexterity in Managing Buyer–Supplier Relationships: The Toyota Case

Katsuki Aoki, Miriam Wilhelm

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Abstract

Most ambidexterity theories deal with managing exploration–exploitation
trade-offs among business units within firms or between alliance partners, but these theories remain yet to be extended to the buyer-supplier relationship level. Through an in-depth case study of the Toyota Motor Corporation, we illustrate how buying firms can simultaneously achieve short-term and long-term benefits with their long-standing suppliers. Taking two inherently different activities as a starting point—mass production with its focus on exploitation and product development with its focus on exploration—we show that the deliberate use of ambiguity and explicitness can function as a countervailing mechanism against overemphasizing either exploration or exploitation. We also show
that structural separation and structural integration are two organizational systems that can be used by buying firms to help suppliers realize ambidexterity in their operations. Finally, we argue that “requisite security” can help to motivate suppliers to address the paradoxical tensions deliberately created by buying firms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1080–1097
Number of pages18
JournalOrganization Science
Volume28
Issue number6
Early online date21-Nov-2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • ambidexterity, case study, continuous improvement, supplier relations, Toyota
  • ORGANIZATIONAL AMBIDEXTERITY
  • PRODUCTIVITY DILEMMA
  • PROCESS MANAGEMENT
  • PRODUCTION SYSTEM
  • MEDIATING ROLE
  • UNITED-STATES
  • EXPLORATION
  • KNOWLEDGE
  • PERFORMANCE

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