Collaboration practices in network organizations: An organizational design perspective on challenges and effectiveness

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Perustieteiden korkeakoulu | Master's thesis
Strategy and Venturing
Degree programme
Master’s Programme in Industrial Engineering and Management
I conducted a qualitative study of a network’s governance structure and collaborative practices with its associated challenges from the beginning of January to the end of April 2020. In recent years, the network had experienced consistent growth and consisted of 30 autonomous units located around the world. This growth is expected to continue, and the network operates with a central team which facilitates and supports the units but not within a hierarchical setup, to give them autonomy to participate in whichever collaborative practices of the network they would like. These collaborative practices were related to the joint initiatives or projects taken by two or more autonomous units to address a challenge in their local host context. During my study, I realized that although the collaborative initiatives formed the crux of the network, there were many factors which influenced their effectiveness. There were two opposing findings. On the one hand, the differences between the units, particularly related to their varying maturities, together with the autonomous nature of the central team adversely impacted the effectiveness of the collaboration practices and lead to clustering and fragmentation within the network. On the other hand, however, the feeling of belonging and working with a shared evolutionary purpose within the network, enabled the different units to collaborate effectively, serving as a source of motivation for most of the network members. This meant that the network effectively functions as a collaborative community despite the clustering. This study contributes to the organizational design literature by emphasizing that autonomy and lack of hierarchy alone are not enough to realize the effectiveness of a network’s collaborative practices. The study further contributes to the prior research on networks and ecosystems, by implying that although they are efficient models in uncertain times, there is a need for a governance structure as they grow, to ensure that the full value of such networks is realized.
Schmidt, Jens
Thesis advisor
Oinonen, Paivi
Martela, Frank
organization design, network organizations, collaboration, growth strategy, self-managing organizations, purpose
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