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A theory of coordination voids in dynamic inter-organisational relationships: a study of social housing projects in England

Barros de Oliveira, Nuno R. (2013) A theory of coordination voids in dynamic inter-organisational relationships: a study of social housing projects in England. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Inter-organisational relationships are at the heart of economic activity and the benefits of inter-organisational collaboration are widely reported. However, theoretical understanding of how inter-organisational relationships are coordinated and why they encounter coordination problems remains limited. I address these questions through a study of seven social housing projects in England, completed between 2008 and 2011. Drawing on the richness of data from over 3,900 pages of minutes from meetings and project reports, I integrate social network analysis techniques (SNA) used to map dynamic inter-organisational relationships with content analysis, through which I explore coordination-related aspects. Surprisingly, coordination proved not to be (directly) related to administrative mechanisms. Instead, I show that coordination stems from the interplay between administrative mechanisms and the structure of the inter-organisational relationships, as shown by two theoretical mechanisms: organising and relating. The former captures the finding that the use of contracting fosters hierarchy, while the latter shows that monitoring organisations foster density of inter-organisational relationships. I discover that inter-organisational relationships are coordinated through the juggling of these mechanisms over time. Furthermore, my analysis demonstrates that coordination problems stem from: contractual bottlenecks and organisational expertise-driven homophily. Interestingly, this exposes a tension between mechanisms intended to aid coordination and the manifestation of coordination problems. Theorising on this tension, I am led to a framework of coordination voids – discontinuities in the fabric of inter-organisational relationships resulting from mechanisms intended to aid coordination, but in fact hampering coordination under certain conditions. I discuss a set of theoretical contributions to the strategic management and organisational and management theory, alongside a methodological contribution. I conclude my discussion of the contributions of this thesis by drawing practical implications for managers and policy-makers. I hope that my study will stimulate a research agenda on the coordination of inter-organisational relationships, preferably one that also engages with societal challenges.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2013 Nuno R. Barros de Oliveira
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
Sets: Departments > Management
Supervisor: Mitev, Nathalie

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