Boundary Spanning in Multinational and Transnational Corporations

Boundary Spanning in Multinational and Transnational Corporations

What are:

  • Boundaries
  • Boundary Spanners
  • Gate Keepers

How do Boundaries evolve?

How do we coordinate and manage across Boundaries?

 

From BOUNDARY SPANNING IN GLOBAL ORGANIZATIONS

BACKGROUND TO SPECIAL ISSUE

Global organizations are inherently complex. Rapidly developing emerging markets and increasing spatial dispersion of innovative activities coupled with digital convergence create the need for continuously developing new ways of coordinating, organizing, and re-configuring of organizational structures and routines across inter and intra-organizational boundaries.

Early studies discussed the roles of gatekeepers in the context of technology transfer between different departments or functional areas within organizations. In more recent research, one stream has explored the role of boundary objects as contextual aids for cross-boundary knowledge sharing. A complementary stream has begun to investigate individuals as boundary spanners and their roles in effectively operating across complex inter- and intra-organizational, socio-cultural and geographic boundaries. Individuals are the nested antecedent to organizational level actions and therefore deserve careful theoretical and empirical deliberation.

Existing research on boundary spanning is mainly conceptual or based on a limited number of case studies. The research suggests that a small number of managers with unique skill sets or personality traits have emerged as critical facilitators for cross-boundary coordination. Boundaries can be both explicit as between parents and subsidiaries of multinational enterprises, and also implicit as between line managers and top management. For example, middle managers have been argued to perform the role of boundary spanners between line managers and top management in a general organizational context. A delineation of explicit and implicit boundaries across organizational subunits as well as within organizational subunits is important to understand the boundary spanning function.

From a managerial perspective, little is known about the characteristics of boundary spanners and whether their capabilities are inherent or can be developed. Although the literature has provided some useful insights, most existing research treats the individual actors and the organizational environment as two discrete dimensions. Further, the boundary-spanning role is essentially associated with structural holes and bridging ties, so key questions arise as to how they affect organizations and organizational capabilities, and how organizational structures foster or hinder boundary spanning.

From an organizational architecture perspective little is known about the specificities of boundaries and how they manifest themselves other than those that are explicit in the form of hierarchies, functional domains, or geographic territories. In global organizations, organizational subunits often become embedded in geographical contexts that differ in terms of culture, institutions, language, etc. These organizational realities create implicit boundaries in many dimensions, e.g., cultural and psychic distance, institutional incompatibilities as well as linguistic issues that may be labeled “lost in translation”. The boundary spanning function in such organizations includes a wide range of coordination mechanisms, which need to be explored in greater detail.

The boundary spanning phenomenon provides an opportunity for moving beyond emblematic borrowing of individual level theories and applying them to organizational level research. This will move the research agenda toward addressing both micro-macro linkage and macro-micro linkages systematically, thus substantially advancing theory.

With this special issue we seek to connect different, though loosely related research domains. The buoying microfoundations of strategy discussion, research on strategy as practice, and behavioral strategy could be particularly fertile areas for such an approach. In addition, this special issue seeks to foster cross- fertilization from and between different epistemological orientations. This includes research in the areas of industrial and organizational psychology and behavioral economics, among others.

TYPES OF SUBMISSION SOLICITED

Building on extant research, we seek contributions that either add empirical insights or/and advance theory building regarding the boundary spanning functions in global organizations as well as the characteristics, development and roles of boundary spanners, a special type of manager that allows organizations to manage more effectively across intra- and inter-organizational boundaries.

We are interested in theoretical, empirical and analytical submissions. We welcome submissions that address both, organizational and managerial based approaches to boundary spanning.

The submission to this special issue must go beyond anecdotal descriptions of the phenomenon and represent a substantial contribution to theory development. The topics that the special issue intends to cover include (but are not limited to):

Definition: What are explicit and implicit boundaries, how do they manifest themselves materially, contextually, intellectually, perceptually and from a structural and/or managerial coordination perspective?

Evolution of boundaries: How do boundaries arise, become entrenched in some circumstances and dissolve in others? To what extent do boundaries evolve dynamically over time and how do boundary- spanning roles emerge? How can analyses of boundaries improve our understanding of conflicts and conflict resolution in general?

Organizational versus managerial level of analysis: Is boundary spanning an organizational capability or a managerial skill or both? What is the role of management in either fostering or hindering boundary spanning? What are managerial or individual boundary spanning skills and how are they developed? How can our understanding of well-known organizational functions (middle managers, staff vs. line managers, etc.) be improved using an analysis of boundaries?

Boundary spanning, a cause or effect: Is the boundary spanning function a cause or an effect? In some contexts, the boundary spanning function could be an outcome of particular forms of organizational values or structures, while in others it could be a means of creating and reinforcing them.

Boundary spanning versus boundary setting: Is boundary spanning always a good thing? Are there situations in which boundary setting (and the associated specialization) is more important than boundary spanning?

Boundary spanners versus gatekeepers: What are the individual, functional and conceptual similarities that boundary spanners and gatekeepers share with each other? What are the differences that distinguish them from each other?

Organizational adaption: How do global organizations adapt over time to new boundary challenges and what are the organizational structures that make boundary spanners more or less effective?

Intra versus inter organizational perspective: Are there fundamental differences between “inter” and “intra” organizational boundary spanning activities? How does boundary spanning relate to the dialectical process of change implementation (theses) and resistance to change (antitheses) in complex/global organizations?

Role of external context in boundary spanning: In global organizations, organizational subunits often become embedded in geographical contexts that differ in terms of culture, institutions, language, etc. How do these differences affect the boundary spanning function as well as the effectiveness of boundary spanners?

From BOUNDARY SPANNING IN GLOBAL ORGANIZATIONS

What are Boundaries?

Early research defined boundaries as distinctive lines that separate what is within an organization and what is in the external environment with which it interacts (Aldrich and Herker 1977; Friedman and Podolny, 1992). Thus a boundary defines an entity. But boundaries also exist within organizations, either in the form of clearly defined subunits, like MNE HQs and their dispersed subsidiaries, or less clearly defined boundaries, based on, for example, different cultures, demographics, and professions. In organization theory, seminal works from both the economics (Coase, 1937) as well as the sociology (Weick, 1995) paradigms view boundary definition as a core function as well as an essential property. In classical transaction cost economics, the firm’s fundamental decision is to decide what activities are undertaken within its boundaries and what activities are implemented through market transactions (Williamson, 1979; Gibbons, 1999). In the theory of sense-making, an organization is identified in terms of those who share a common identity, often operationalized through their understanding of the external environment (Weick, 1988; 1995).

These two pillars of organization theory provide us with complementary perspectives on the nature of boundaries. The economics perspective is based on an external, explicitly defined notion of legal ownership; the boundary distinguishes between what the organization owns and what it does not (Demsetz, 1983). The sociology perspective is based on an internal, tacit notion of belonging (Durkheim, 1938) whereby the boundary appears between those who identify with the organization and those who do not.

The complementarity of these two perspectives is evident from that fact that they generate co-evolutionary, dynamic boundary drivers. Common ownership often underpins the creation of routines and operating procedures that build common syntax and semantics which eventually result in a common basis of sense-making. A strong organizationally derived identity – as seen in “corporate culture” (Guiso et al, 2015) or “political culture” (Mudambi and Navarra, 2003) – often drives acquisition and location decisions that result in common ownership.

Both economics-based and sociology-based boundaries are intangible, but they often give rise to tangible structures like national borders, factory gates and other physical boundary markers (Hernes, 2004). However, these are merely representations of the underlying reality that is based on the complementary notions of boundaries. It is possible that over time, physical edifices may strengthen boundaries, but they rarely create them.

Key sources of Research:

Exploring the Role of Boundary Spanning in Distributed Networks of Knowledge

Eli Hustad and Aurilla Aurelie Bechina

 

 

The Importance of Boundary-Spanners in Global Supply Chains and Logistics Management in the 21st Century

Timothy Kiessling Michael Harvey Garry Garrison

 

Click to access 1357370196.704415399747.pdf

 

 

Boundary Spanning in Global Organizations

Andreas P. J. Schotter

Ram Mudambi

Yves L. Doz

16 January 2017

Click to access Boundary-Spanning-in-Global-Organizations.pdf

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/joms.12256/full

Click to access boundary-spanners-special-issue-call.pdf

Boundary spanning behaviors of expatriates

Kevin Y. Au, John Fukuda

Journal of World Business, 37, 285-296.

2002

 

 

Global Mobility Policies, Social Positioning and the Boundary Spanning Work of Expatriate Managers

 

Click to access Mense-Petermann_Spiegel-2016.pdf

 

 

Crowding at the frontier: knowledge brokers, gatekeepers, boundary spanners and marginal-intersecting individuals

Aurore Haas

 

http://www.strategie-aims.com/events/conferences/24-xxiiieme-conference-de-l-aims/communications/3164-crowding-at-the-frontier-a-review-of-gatekeepers-and-boundary-spanners/download

 

 

Boundary Spanning Leadership: Tactics to Bridge Social Identity Groups in Organizations

Chris Ernst and Jeffrey Yip

 

Click to access boundary_spanning_leadership.pdf

 

Boundary Spanning Leadership

Mission Critical Perspectives from the Executive Suite

Jeffrey Yip, Chris Ernst, and Michael Campbell

Contributors: Corey Criswell and Serena Wong

Click to access 00b49528fa0ea2a023000000.pdf

 

Loosely Coupled Systems: A Reconceptualization

Orton, J. Douglas; Weick, Karl E.
Academy of Management. The Academy of Management Review; Apr 1990;

Click to access OrtonWeickAMR1990.pdf

Beyond brokering: Sourcing agents, boundary work and working conditions in global supply chains

 

January 17, 2017

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0018726716684200

 

 

BEYOND BOUNDARY SPANNERS: THE ‘COLLECTIVE BRIDGE’ AS AN EFFICIENT INTERUNIT STRUCTURE FOR TRANSFERRING COLLECTIVE KNOWLEDGE

ZHENG JANE ZHAO and JAIDEEP ANAND

School of Business, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, U.S.A. 2 Fisher College of Business, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.

2013

https://www.academia.edu/30068422/Beyond_Boundary_Spanners_The_Collective_Bridge_as_an_Efficient_Interunit_Structure_for_Transferring_Collective_Knowledge

 

 

A MULTILEVEL PERSPECTIVE ON KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER: EVIDENCE FROM THE CHINESE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY

ZHENG JANE ZHAO and JAIDEEP ANAND

2009

School of Business, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, U.S.A. 2 Fisher College of Business, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.

https://www.academia.edu/30068443/A_multilevel_perspective_on_knowledge_transfer_evidence_from_the_Chinese_automotive_industry

 

 

FROM CORE TO PERIPHERY AND BACK: A STUDY ON THE DELIBERATE SHAPING OF KNOWLEDGE FLOWS IN INTERFIRM DYADS AND NETWORKS

ANDREA LIPPARINI, GIANNI LORENZONI, and SIMONE FERRIANI

Department of Management, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy 2 Cass Business School, City University London, London, U.K.

2013

https://www.academia.edu/19192371/From_core_to_periphery_and_back_A_study_on_the_deliberate_shaping_of_knowledge_flows_in_interfirm_dyads_and_networks

 

 

NETWORK STRUCTURE AND INNOVATION: THE LEVERAGING OF A DUAL NETWORK AS A DISTINCTIVE RELATIONAL CAPABILITY

ANTONIO CAPALDO* Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, Milan, Italy

2007

https://www.academia.edu/414380/Capaldo_A._2007._Network_Structure_and_Innovation_The_Leveraging_of_a_Dual_Network_As_a_Distinctive_Relational_Capability._Strategic_Management_Journal_28_6_585-608

 

Author: Mayank Chaturvedi

You can contact me using this email mchatur at the rate of AOL.COM. My professional profile is on Linkedin.com.

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