Multilevel Approach to Research in Organizations

Multilevel Approach to Research in Organizations

 

  • Micro approach
  • Macro approach
  • Micro-macro approach
  • Hierarchy
  • Multi Scale
  • Multi Level
  • Heterarchy
  • Holarchy
  • Holonomic
  • Holons
  • Networks
  • Agents
  • Interaction
  • Aggregation
  • Disaggregation
  • Emergence
  • Complexity
  • The Fractal Company (Book)
  • The Fractal Organization (Book)
  • Viable Systems Model (Stafford Beer)
  • Self Similarity
  • Power Laws

 

 

From Multilevel Theory, Research, and Methods in Organizations

Foundations for Multilevel Theory in Organizations

Conceptual Underpinnings: General Systems Theory

General systems theory (GST) has been among the more dominant intellectual perspectives of the twentieth century and has been shaped by many contributors (e.g., Ashby, 1952; Boulding, 1956; Miller, 1978; von Bertalanffy, 1972). Systems concepts originate in the “holistic” Aristotelian worldview that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, in contrast with “normal” science, which tends to be insular and reductionistic. The central goal of GST is to establish principles that generalize across phenomena and disciplines-an ambitious effort that is aimed at nothing less than promoting the unity of science.

Systems principles are manifest as analogies or logical homologies. Logical homologies represent identical concepts (that is, isomorphism), and parallel processes linking different concepts (that is, homology), that generalize to very different systems phenomena (von Bertalanffy, 1972). For example, it is noted that open systems counteract the second law of thermodynamics-entropy-by importing energy and information from the external environment, and transforming it, to maintain homeostasis.

Feedback and servo- mechanisms are the basis for the purposive responses of cybernetic systems. Organizational systems are proposed to have analogous structures and processes (e.g., Katz & Kahn, 1966; Miller, 1978).

Whether one takes a more macro (Parsons, 1956, 1960) or micro (Allport, 1954) perspective, the influence of GST on organizational science has been pervasive. Unfortunately, however, that influence has been primarily metaphorical. The bureaucratic-closed systems-machine metaphor is contrasted with a contingent-open systems-living organism metaphor. Although metaphor has important value-virtually all formal theory is rooted in underlying metaphor (Morgan, 1983)-lack of specificity, formal identity, and precise definition can yield truisms that mislead and fail the test of science (Pinder & Bourgeois, 1982; Bourgeois & Pinder, 1983). GST has exhibited heuristic value but has contributed relatively little to the development of testable principles in the organizational sciences (Roberts et al., 1978). It is to this latter concern that the multilevel perspective is directed.

As social systems, organizations are qualitatively distinct from living cells and other concrete physical systems. The goal of the multilevel perspective is not to identify principles that generalize to other types of systems. Although laudable, such an effort must often of necessity gloss over differences between qualitatively different systems in order to maintain homology across systems (compare Miller, 1978). The primary goal of the multilevel perspective in organizational science is to identify principles that enable a more integrated understanding of phenomena that unfold across levels in organizations.

Macro and Micro Perspectives

Fundamental to the levels perspective is the recognition that micro phenomena are embedded in macro contexts and that macro phenomena often emerge through the interaction and dynamics of lower-level elements. Organizational scholars, however, have tended to emphasize either a micro or a macro perspective. The macro perspective is rooted in its sociological origins. It assumes that there are substantial regularities in social behavior that transcend the apparent differences among social actors. Given a particular set of situational constraints and demographics, people will behave similarly. Therefore, it is possible to focus on aggregate or collective responses and to ignore individual variation. In contrast, the micro perspective is rooted in psychological origins.  It assumes that there are variations in individual behavior, and that a focus on aggregates will mask important individual differences that are meaningful in their own right. Its focus is on variations among individual characteristics that affect individual reactions.

Neither single-level perspective can adequately account for organizational behavior. The macro perspective neglects the means by which individual behavior, perceptions, affect, and interactions give rise to higher-level phenomena. There is a danger of superficiality and triviality inherent in anthropomorphization. Organizations do not behave; people do.  In contrast, the micro perspective has been guilty of neglecting contextual factors that can significantly constrain the effects of individual differences that lead to collective responses, which ultimately constitute macro phenomena (House et al., 1995; Klein et al., 1994; Roberts et al., 1978; Rousseau, 1985).

Macro researchers tend to deal with global measures or data aggregates that are actual or theoretical representations of lower-level phenomena, but they cannot generalize to those lower levels without committing errors of misspecification. This renders problematic the drawing of meaningful policy or application implications from the findings.  For example, assume that we can demonstrate a significant relationship between organizational investments in training and organizational performance. The intuitive generalization-that one could use the magnitude of the aggregate relationship to predict how individual performance would increase as a function of increased organizational investments in training-is not supportable, because of the well-known problem of ecological inference. Relationships among aggregate data tend to be higher than corresponding relationships among individual data elements (Robinson, 1950; Thorndike, 1939). This fact continues to be a significant difficulty for macro-oriented policy disciplines-sociology, political science, economics, education policy, epidemiology-that attempt to draw individual-level inferences from aggregate data.

Micro researchers suffer from an obverse problem, which also makes the desire to influence human resource management policy difficult. We may, for example, be able to show that individual cognitive ability increases individual performance. However, we cannot then assert that selection systems that produce higher aggregate cognitive ability will necessarily yield improved organizational performance. Perhaps they will, but that inference is not directly supported by individual-level analyses. Misspecifications of this sort, however, are not unusual (Schmidt, Hunter, McKenzie, & Muldrow, 1979). Such “atomistic fallacies,” in which organizational psychologists suggest team- or organization-level interventions based on individual-level data, are common in our literature.

A levels approach, combining micro and macro perspectives, engenders a more integrated science of organizations. House and colleagues (1995) suggest the term meso because it captures this sense that organizational science is both macro and micro. Whatever it is called, we need a more integrated approach. The limitations that the organizational disciplines suffer with respect to influencing policy and applications can be resolved through the development of more complete models of organizational phenomena-models that are system-oriented but do not try to capture the complexity of the entire system. Instead, by focusing on significant and salient phenomena, conceptualizing and assessing at multiple levels, and exhibiting concern about both top down and bottom-up processes, it is possible to build a science of organizations that is theoretically rich and application-relevant.

https://goal-lab.psych.umn.edu/orgpsych/readings/2.%20Multilevel%20and%20Methods/Kozlowski%20&%20Klein.pdf

 

A multilevel approach to theory and research in organizations: Contextual, temporal, and emergent processes

Steve W, J. Kozlowski

Katherine J. Klein

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232580888_A_multilevel_approach_to_theory_and_research_in_organizations_Contextual_temporal_and_emergent_processes

 

 

Multilevel Theory and Research

 

Stan Gully

Click to access StanGully_%20Spring2013_%20MultilevelSyllabus.pdf

 

 

THEORETICAL AND METHODOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MULTILEVEL RESEARCH

Gilad Chen

 

Click to access SWARM-Syllabus-2017.pdf

 

 

 

Multilevel Issues in Supply Chain Management

 

Marian Oosterhuis, Eric Molleman, Taco van der Vaart

Click to access ch_3.4_01.pdf

 

 

 

 

Modeling consensus emergence in groups using longitudinal multilevel methods

 

Jonas W. B. Lang

 

Paul D. Bliese

Alex de Voogt

 

Click to access 8562633.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

BUILDING THEORETICAL AND EMPIRICAL BRIDGES ACROSS LEVELS: MULTILEVEL RESEARCH IN MANAGEMENT

 

MICHAEL A. HITT

PAUL W. BEAMISH

SUSAN E. JACKSON

JOHN E. MATHIEU

Click to access 20150528101003_4659.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Micro/Meso/Macro Levels of Analysis

Joshua B. Barbour

 

Click to access 2017_levels.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

‘Multi-level research into the social: An old wine in an old forgotten bottle?’

Harwood, S

2016

Click to access 16_01.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Multilevel Theory, Research, and Methods in Organizations: Foundations, Extensions, and New Directions

Katherine J. Klein (Editor),

Steve W. J. Kozlowski (Editor)

ISBN: 978-0-787-95228-0Aug 2013, Pfeiffer

https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Multilevel+Theory%2C+Research%2C+and+Methods+in+Organizations%3A+Foundations%2C+Extensions%2C+and+New+Directions-p-9780787952280

 

 

 

 

 

Complexity Theory and Organization Science 

 Philip Anderson

Source: Organization Science, Vol. 10, No. 3, Special Issue: Application of Complexity Theory to Organization Science, (May – Jun., 1999), pp. 216-232 

Click to access 409e0ed1257af816c96cb5b555838287a50a.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

PARADIGM SHIFT IN THE CORPORATION: THE FRACTAL COMPANY

  Dr.-Ing. Wilfried Sihn

 

https://ac.els-cdn.com/S1474667017422889/1-s2.0-S1474667017422889-main.pdf?_tid=a61a6be3-a25d-41ee-a602-e38da9115fd0&acdnat=1528492319_cae660ddbcbdbe1961f63d4469a43489

 

 

 

 

 

Analysing Enterprise Models from a Fractal Organisation Perspective – Potentials and Limitations

Kurt Sandkuhl and Marite Kirikova

 

https://hal.inria.fr/hal-01572393/document

 

 

 

 

 

 The Theory of the Organization and the New Paradigms

Aquiles Limone, Milan Marinovic

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1018.6354&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

 

 

 

 

The Fractal Company: A Revolution In Corporate Culture

by H.J. Warnecke

Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1993, 228 pp.,

 

 

 

 

The Fractal Organization: Creating sustainable organizations with the Viable System Model

2009

by Patrick Hoverstadt

 

 

 

 

 

Multi Level Analysis

Joop J Hox

Theoretical approaches to managing complexity in organizations: A comparative analysis

Luz E. Bohórquez Arévaloa,∗, Angela Espinosa

THE HOLONIC PERSPECTIVE IN ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT

 

 

 

 

 

From Micro to Meso: Critical Steps in Conceptualizing and Conducting Multilevel Research

KATHERINE J. KLEIN

STEVE W. J. KOZLOWSKI

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