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Incremental Organizational Change in a Transforming Society: Managing Turbulence in Hungary in the 1990s

Journal of Management Studies
Wiley Blackwell (Blackwell Publishing)
Publication Date
  • Economics
  • Political Science


The rapid liberalization of the former state socialist economies of Eastern Europe coupled with privatization were thought by many in the early 1990s likely to generate effective capitalist firms quite quickly. However, the radical institutional transformation and collapse of Soviet markets resulted in considerable uncertainty for most companies which, together with high sunk costs and lack of resources, inhibited organizational restructuring and strategic change. Despite high levels of foreign ownership and control by the mid-1990s, many Hungarian companies continued to produce much the same kinds of products for mostly the same customers with inputs from mostly the same suppliers as in 1990. While most had reduced employment substantially, and many had disposed of ancillary organizational units, the bulk of the companies considered here had not greatly altered their work systems and overall organizational structures. In the few enterprises where the production process had been extensively reorganized by 1996, this was funded and directed by foreign firms who had taken them over. These foreign firm-controlled companies also tended to have new top managers from outside the enterprise. They additionally introduced new products more often than Hungarian firms, albeit within rather narrow product lines that usually dominated the domestic market. Overall, most of the enterprises studied were still doing much the same set of activities in the mid-1990s, though with fewer staff, as at the start of the decade, and privatization per se had not led to major shifts in enterprise structure and strategy, nor did it seem likely to do so in the foreseeable future.

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