Absorbing new knowledge in small and medium-sized enterprises: a multiple case analysis of Six Sigma

Rodney McAdam, Jiju Antony, Maneesh Kumar, Shirley A Hazlett

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27 Citations (Scopus)


The primary aim of this article is to critically analyse the development of Six Sigma theory and practice within small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) using a multiple case study approach. The article also explores the subsequent development of Lean Six Sigma as a means of addressing the perceived limitations of the efficacy of Six Sigma in this context. The overarching theoretical framework is that of absorptive capacity, where Six Sigma is conceptualized as new knowledge to be absorbed by smaller firms. The findings from a multiple case study involving repeat interviews and focus groups informed the development of an analytical model demonstrating the dynamic underlying routines for the absorptive capacity process and the development of a number of summative propositions relating the characteristics of SMEs to Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma implementation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)785-810
JournalInternational Small Business Journal
Issue number7
Early online date20 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • critique
  • SMEs
  • six sigma development
  • absorptive capacity
  • perspective

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