Knowledge as a contingency factor : achieving coordination in interorganizational systems
Looney, John P.
Nissen, Mark E.
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Organizational research shows how mismatches between organizational design characteristics and contingency factors lead to lower performance. In addition to classic contingency factors, knowledge is a powerful resource that influences performance. This research explores knowledge as a structural contingency factor for interorganizational systems. It explores the performance effects of different types of knowledge (i.e., tacit and explicit) interacting with organizational coordination mechanisms (e.g., direct supervision and mutual adjustment) in the highly complex environment of crisis events (e.g., natural disasters) where multiple organizations often rapidly develop reciprocal interdependencies. In those events, teams of boundary spanners often work to coordinate the interorganizational response; hence, understanding how performance is affected by the interaction of knowledge types available and various coordination mechanisms is useful to managers. Using a mixed methodology design, this research extends structural contingency theory to the interorganizational level. First, immersive qualitative field research is conducted to observe widely dispersed organizations during a developing crisis. Those observations help formulate a baseline agent-based computational organizational model. Using that baseline, theoretically driven changes are made to create unique models that populate each quadrant of a two factorial experiment design. A Monte Carlo simulation of each model generates performance effects (e.g., speed and project risk) of different types of coordination mechanisms interacting with different types of knowledge. This research shows that a mutual adjustment coordination mechanism is most fit when teams are made up of people with a high level of tacit knowledge. During a crisis or disaster response situation, however, managers may not have much control over the type of knowledge available within the boundary spanning teams. This research also shows some interesting interaction effects across the different performance variables; hence, managers faced with reciprocal interdependencies should apprise themselves of the knowledge types associated with interacting boundary spanning teams.
RightsThis publication is a work of the U.S. Government as defined in Title 17, United States Code, Section 101. Copyright protection is not available for this work in the United States.
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