A hybrid model of competitive capabilities

Mattias Hallgren, Jan Olhager, Roger G. Schroeder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to present and test a new model for competitive capabilities. Traditionally, a cumulative model has been viewed as having one sequence of building competitive capabilities in a firm in support of market needs, including quality, delivery, cost efficiency and flexibility. Although appealing as a conceptual model, empirical testing has not been able to fully support the cumulative model. This paper acknowledges the need for a hybrid approach to managing capability progression. It brings together the literature on trade-offs, cumulative capabilities, and order winners and qualifiers. Design/methodology/approach: A new hybrid approach for modelling competitive capabilities is tested empirically using data from the high performance manufacturing (HPM) study, round 3, including three industries and seven countries - a total of 211 plants. Findings: The hybrid model shows significantly better fit with the data from the sample than the cumulative models suggested by previous literature. Empirical support is found for the traditional perception that a high level of quality is a prerequisite for a high level of delivery performance. However, cost efficiency and flexibility do not exhibit a cumulative pattern. Instead, the results show that they are developed in parallel. The findings suggest that a balance between cost efficiency and flexibility is built upon high levels of quality and delivery performance. Research limitations/implications: Since we limit the empirical investigation to three industries and seven countries, it would be interesting to extend the testing of this model to more industries and countries. This research shows that combining perspectives and insights from different research streams - in this case, trade-off theory and the concepts of cumulative capabilities, and order winners and qualifiers - can be fruitful. Practical implications: The results of this paper provides managers with guidelines concerning the configuration of competitive capabilities. First, a qualifying level of quality needs to be attained, followed by a qualifying level of delivery. Then, a balance between potential order winners, i.e. cost efficiency and flexibility, needs to be attained. Originality/value: This paper presents a new approach to modelling competitive capabilities that synthesises previous research streams and perspectives from cumulative capabilities, contesting capabilities (trade-offs), and order winners and qualifiers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-526
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Competitive advantage
  • Industrial performance


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