The dynamics of delayering: changing management structures in three countries

Craig R. Littler, Retha Wiesner, Richard Dunford

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75 Citations (Scopus)


The 1990s witnessed significant changes in organizational design philosophy. Unique to the 1990s were prescriptions for restructuring involving delayering (the planned vertical compression of managerial levels of hierarchy) (Keuning and Opheij, 1994; Peters, 1992). What did this mean in practice? The current understanding of delayering can be encapsulated in a 'delayering thesis'. However, outside of the USA and UK there has been limited study and measurement of the extent and effects of delayering. This paper delineates trends in delayering based on surveys of 2964 organizations across three countries and assesses the effects in terms of management structures, workloads, productivity, and the notion of 'survivor syndrome'. The extent of a subsequent phase of 'relayering' is examined. It concludes that delayering has been widespread as an organizational strategy; that there are few signs of a delayering-relayering cycle, but the effects in relation to managers was a collapse of commitment in Australia and South Africa. However, there were significant differences in New Zealand. A downsizing/delayering model is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-256
Number of pages32
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003

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