management matters and it matters in systematic and fairly easy to replicate ways. If mis-measurement explained productivity differences, Lemonis would not be able to successfully turn firms around. But he can and does. How?
Mainstream economics starts with the assumption that firms are behaving optimally. This is absurd. Firms are operated by human beings, and human beings are flawed. People always make mistakes, and there are always opportunities to improve.
I am guessing that when badly-run incumbents lack regulatory protection, it has become somewhat easier to drive them out of business. Transportation costs have come down. So have communication costs. This increases the geographic reach of strong competitors. So the worst retailers and the worst companies that need software management skills have a really hard time sticking around.
The requirement to earn a profit is probably the most important check on bad management. Non-profits can be poorly run as long as donors are tolerant. Sectors in which the government is heavily involved can be inefficient, because the government can always be counted on to boost demand and restrict entry. So my guess is that it’s easier to survive as a badly-run “green energy” firm or a badly run college than as a badly-run software company or a badly-run grocery chain. Note that I mean “badly run” in relative terms, because, again, humans are flawed, so that every company is “badly run” in absolute terms. Yes, I know that some of the “green energy” firms that received government subsidies went under, but it seems reasonable to say that they lasted longer than they would have with the same strategy and execution but no government help.