Collaborating across boundaries : theoretical, empirical, and simulated explorations
Author(s)Black, Laura J. (Laura Jean), 1963-
Sloan School of Management.
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Complex goods and processes require ever more sophisticated and specialized knowledge; harnessing multiple kinds of expertise to execute tasks, solve problems, and develop strategies is increasingly critical to organizations' survival. When specialists come together, however, they often speak in different vocabularies, worry about different problems, use incompatible tools, and occasionally even serve incongruent objectives. Generating value from specialized knowledge requires creating and sustaining collaboration across functional, disciplinary, and organizational lines so that people on each side of a boundary learn what they need to practice their discipline effectively in support of interdependent work. My research examines determinants of success and failure to collaborate across intra-organizational lines. The dissertation proposes a theoretical framework for examining cross-boundary work and uses qualitative and simulated analyses to explore two cases describing (non)collaboration across boundaries of hierarchy and role. The framework, which emerged through iterative study of field data and literature relevant to cross-boundary work, builds on existing theories of knowledge management, cognition, and innovation and product development and unites them in a way consistent with dynamic theories of structuration and practice. The first case articulates a simple lens integrating three themes in organizational and social theory--daily activities, actors' accumulated resources, and the recursive interactions between these that unfold through time-and turns the lens on a widely cited ethnography describing interactions between doctors and technicians over implementation of a new scanning technology.(cont.) The second case uses a framework elaborating on each of these themes to explore (non)collaboration across departmental lines in new product development, using data gathered from a midsize manufacturing company. The contributions center on generating more comprehensive explanations of why (non)collaborative patterns can emerge in cross-boundary work. The research draws on the framework, field observations, and simulation analyses to identify three failure modes of collaboration and to suggest interventions to keep people involved and productive in interdependent work. These include designing locations, artifacts, actions, and timing of cross-boundary activities in light of participants' current knowledge; staffing and training to balance expertise across the boundary; and aligning knowledge gained through cross-boundary work with sanctioned roles and activities in the larger organizational context. Key words: Collaboration; boundaries; knowledge management; simulation; system dynamics.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, 2002."June 2002."Includes bibliographical references (p. 275-282).
DepartmentSloan School of Management.; Sloan School of Management
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sloan School of Management.