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Examining organisational flexibility in an interorganisational context: A case study of a grocery retail supply chain.

Kopanaki, Evangelia (2008) Examining organisational flexibility in an interorganisational context: A case study of a grocery retail supply chain. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

The objective of this thesis is to clarify the complex notion of flexibility and to explore the impact of Interorganisational Information Systems (IOS) on the flexibility of organisations. Previous studies have shown that while the utilisation of IOS can contribute significantly to organisational flexibility, it does not provide equal benefits to all trading partners. Although flexibility is increasingly becoming more important for the survivability and competitiveness of organisations, its meaning is still ambiguous and a rigorous conceptualisation of the notion is lacking in the literature. Most researchers examining the impact of technology on organisational flexibility identify technological as well as organisational issues influencing flexibility, but fail to analyse flexibility as a dynamic concept embedded in the social context. Moreover, they mainly focus on the flexibility of the individual firm, paying less attention to flexibility as a property of the interaction between firms. This research proposes an interpretive approach and examines the notion of flexibility by including a thorough investigation of the organisational context within which it is embedded. Since IOS involve interaction between different organisations, issues of cooperation and relationships with trading partners are also considered. Therefore, the concept of flexibility is viewed from both an organisational and an interorganisational (business network) level, referring to the interaction of trading partners. A synthesized research framework, based on previous research and the theoretical perspectives of appreciative systems thinking and web models, enables us to perceive flexibility as a multidimensional and dynamic concept, embedded in and shaped by the organisational/interorganisational context. In the proposed framework, flexibility is presented not only as the ability of the organisation/business network to respond to environmental disturbances, but also as its capability to evolve and to change over time. A multiple case design in a grocery retail-supply chain in Greece, comprising three suppliers and four retailers, provides the empirical data to support the argument of this thesis. The analysis of the data relates differences in organisational contexts to variations in the flexibility achieved by the organisations. It shows that IOS can provide constraints even for the more competent organisations and illustrates how the interaction with trading partners may influence the flexibility achieved at an organisational level. It finally demonstrates the dynamic nature of flexibility, it describes the relation between its different dimensions and discusses their change and evolution, following and influencing the changes of the organisational and interorganisational contexts.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Operations Research
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Management
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/2800

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