Better results from complex measurement 

BTH is developing an expert research team in industrial economics and management. BTH is already strong in measuring the effects of change, such as political change, but the field of efficiency and productivity analysis is relatively new and BTH now aims to become the leader in Sweden and an important player internationally.

“Behind a result, whether good or bad, there are always many determining factors. Not knowing, or thinking you know the causes without any proof, is often a source of inadequate development or incorrect governance in companies and public organisations”, says Professor Jonas Månsson.

The researchers are developing the measurement of effects, efficiency and productivity together with companies and project organisations, examining the factors that are beneficial or detrimental to innovation. Productivity development and technical development will be investigated together with companies, and industrial dynamics and technological change will be studied together with public authorities and policy makers.

The mathematical and statistical methods used are proven and continuously developed in international research exchanges and in collaboration with other stakeholders beyond the higher education sector. Jonas Månsson has studied efficiency and productivity in organisations as varied as rice mills in Kenya, law courts in Norway, paper mills, saw-mills and higher education institutions, etc.

“Efficiency studies are based on minimising use of resources and/or maximising production within the set parameters of the means and goals you have. But it is really about understanding the organisation you are reviewing; desk research often does not lead to equally usable analyses”, says Jonas Månsson.

Good basis for decisions 
The studies are both model-based and closely related to reality. Jonas Månsson emphasises how important it is to get a hearing for the model and to be on site and talk to people in the organisation but at the same time, as a researcher, to maintain a helicopter perspective. The reasons that management think they see do not always correspond to the reasons observed by the employees, and the context is often complex.

“For example, traditions can be a factor that affects decisions. Not least in owner-managed companies which have perhaps been passed down through the generations, but also in other organisations where preconceptions can be an unconscious factor in decision-making”, says Jonas Månsson.

The basis for decisions is a key concept in this context. Jonas Månsson and his colleagues can identify shortcomings in efficiency that affect results in an organisation, but what management decides to address is beyond their power.

“For example, we can study the differences in results between units in a large holding or a sector, or the effects of political decisions in a country. We offer advice and recommendations, but above all we increase the knowledge available for making future decisions better”, says Jonas Månsson.

“Not least, we can sink preconceived notions and contribute with an objective and more in-depth basis for a decision, for those who want to do more within their frameworks.”
Interaction for development
Increasing knowledge about complex measurement is important. It is only when you know what impedes or promotes efficiency and productivity that you can take the right decision to optimise cost benefits and resource utilisation in both business and society. Jonas Månsson sees it as a strength that he and others at BTH have such close links to external organisations. He uses the word interaction to describe the benefit that academia, companies and public authorities can derive from working in each other’s organisations. He himself alternates between research on the one hand and assignments and employment positions on the other, in organisations like the Swedish and Norwegian national audit offices, the Swedish Agency for Growth Policy Analysis, the Swedish Board of Agriculture and the Swedish Social Insurance Inspectorate.

“The reviews often raise questions which cannot be addressed within the assignment. I take these issues back with me to our research work and, after a few years, a solution may come up that could have an impact in research, new knowledge that can be taken back to the organisation as a solution.”

“It is an important transfer of knowledge and experience which happens partly because we often have a foot in both worlds and partly because we work so closely with the organisation being studied. From us, you get not only a report, but also knowledge for your organisation”,  concludes Jonas Månsson.

 More about BTH’s research in industrial economics and management.

13 January 2021

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