Bérard Céline, Fréchet Marc
Organizational antecedents of exploration and exploitation in SMEs: The role of structural and resource attributes

Several studies have recognized that both structural attributes (in terms of formal hierarchical structure) and resource attributes (in terms of slack resources) are at the core of the SMEs’ specific issues to attain ambidexterity. Surprisingly, there is a lack of empirical studies in SMEs aiming at analyzing the extent to which these attributes are associated with exploration and exploitation. To fil this gap, this paper thus proposes to examine the effects of two structural attributes (formalization and structural empowerment) and two resource attributes (financial slack and human resource slack) on exploration and exploitation in SMEs. To this end, data were gathered from a survey administered to the chief executive officers of 530 French SMEs. Our research hypotheses were then tested using seemingly unrelated regressions. Results show that the influences of structural attributes are greater on exploitation than exploration, whereas the influences of resources attributes are greater on exploration than exploitation. Moreover, they reveal that structural empowerment and financial slack may be conducive to both exploration and exploitation, thus in favour of ambidexterity. On the other hand, formalization and human resource slack have a significant effect only on one of these two variables: the former may be a powerful lever for exploitation, while the latter may be a powerful lever for exploration. This study thus allowed us to discuss the varying impacts that several organizational antecedents have on exploration and exploitation in the specific context of SMEs. It opens the way for further studies on exploration and exploitation in SMEs to examine how such antecedents may interact and complement each other.