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The Collaborative Challenge of Product Development: Exploring Sustainable Work Systems Through Critical Incidents in R&D Alliances
KTH, School of Industrial Engineering and Management (ITM), Industrial Economics and Management (Dept.), Industrial Economics and Management (Div.).
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to empirically study challenges and opportunities in the operational work in contract-based R&D alliances in order to increase the understanding of this type of work system and explore how these work systems could be sustainable. Based on the concept of sustainable work systems, this thesis addresses issues of how work in R&D alliance should support both the competitiveness of the firm as well as regeneration of human resources.

In the area of product development, the main drivers for creating alliances are often strategic and concern the globalization of today’s business environment. Issues such as increased cost-based competition, shorter product life cycles, and a greater need for flexibility to tackle technological or strategic shifts have all been argued to motivate companies to form R&D alliances. No doubt adopting the firm’s development of new products to an R&D alliance strategy has a substantial impact on the operational work. However, despite the vast research on why companies engage in R&D alliances, the knowledge of operational work and how they are operationally managed is still limited. Several scholars have recently reported that failed operations may be one of the most important reasons for situations where R&D alliances do not reach their goals.

An empirical investigation covering 14 R&D alliances has been conducted based on the Critical Incident Technique. The findings – supported by 158 critical incidents, which have been identified by operational leaders – reveal new knowledge about the R&D alliance operational work with implications for both competitiveness and regeneration of human resources.

A central contribution stems from the specific insights given to challenges and opportunities that operational leaders face in the R&D alliance work, in five perspectives on the R&D alliance process: Formation, Formal R&D process, Informal relationships, Embeddedness, and Exit. Further examination of the critical incident data showed several implications for operational leaders with direct contributions to both product development and alliance theory. First, four critical roles for operational leaders in R&D alliances have been suggested: Facilitating, Finishing, Ambassadoring, and Trustkeeping. Secondly, a framework of trust formation mechanisms has been applied and tested. This concluded that process-based, characteristic-based, and institutional-based mechanisms represent important aspects in alliance operation; the relevance of these trust formation mechanisms contributes both to the knowledge of micro-processes of trust formation and specific managerial abilities in R&D alliances. Third, we examine the influence of two types of contextual risks that have been addressed in previous alliance research: relational and performance risks. The comparative analysis of a sub-sample of alliances shows that these risks influence the operational work in R&D alliances for which operational leaders could be specifically trained and prepared. Lastly, a framework that addresses support from HRM in inter-organizational context has been developed and analyzed. This has indicated that HRM represents an important, although unexploited, resource when engaging in R&D alliances.

Furthermore, we have suggested a tentative framework for the R&D alliance as a sustainable work system. The overall findings from this study have been synthesized from a sustainable work systems perspective, based on three organizational principles that have been drawn from practice-centered product innovation: broadened roles and responsibilities, work as a collaborative process, and decentralization of strategic information. A fourth principle has been incorporated as well: support systems for sustainable work. This concluded that, in order to be sustainable, companies that engage in R&D alliances should carefully manage and reassess the consequences of these organizational principles in order to simultaneously support the goals that are involved in this type of work system: to simultaneously support innovation, inter-organizational relationships, and the regeneration of human resources.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH , 2009. , xii, 101 p.
Series
Trita-IEO, ISSN 1100-7982 ; 2009:10
Keyword [en]
R&D Alliances, product development, sustainable work systems, critical incident technique, operational work
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-11191ISBN: 978-91-7415-425-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-11191DiVA: diva2:241357
Public defence
2009-10-23, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20100813

Available from: 2009-10-05 Created: 2009-10-02 Last updated: 2013-02-04Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Critical incidents in R&D alliances: Uncovering leadership roles
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Critical incidents in R&D alliances: Uncovering leadership roles
2009 (English)In: European Management Review, ISSN 1740-4754, E-ISSN 1740-4762, Vol. 6, no 3, 195-205 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

What keeps an alliance leader awake during night' Past alliance research has contributed to our understanding of aspects such as motives for forming an alliance, initial conditions and the process of development. However, few studies have investigated challenges that alliance leaders face, as well as roles they adopt during the alliance life cycle. In this paper, we seek to investigate critical incidents that alliance leaders face in the execution of contract-based RD alliances. By using the Critical Incident Technique, 158 critical incidents have been collected and analyzed. Our findings show that, in terms of frequency of occurrence, managing informal relationships and alliance formation are the two dominant themes, followed by formal RD process, embeddedness, and exit. In addition, four crucial roles for managing an RD alliance are also suggested. These roles are Facilitating, Finishing, Ambassadoring, and Trustkeeping.

Keyword
Alliance process, Critical incident technique, Innovation, Leadership, Roles, Strategic alliance
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-24096 (URN)10.1057/emr.2009.16 (DOI)000208678300007 ()2-s2.0-70349216832 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20100813

Available from: 2010-08-13 Created: 2010-08-13 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
2. Formation of Trust in R & D alliances
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Formation of Trust in R & D alliances
2005 (English)In: 12th International Product Development Management Conference, EIASM, 2005, 1641-1658 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-24099 (URN)
Conference
12th International Product Development Management Conference, EIASM, Copenhagen, Denmark, June 14-16, 2005.
Available from: 2010-08-13 Created: 2010-08-13 Last updated: 2016-04-21Bibliographically approved
3. Relation and performance risks in operative work in contractbased R&D Alliances
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Relation and performance risks in operative work in contractbased R&D Alliances
2011 (English)In: International Journal of Innovation and Technology Management, ISSN 0219-8770, Vol. 8, no 3, 415-435 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper examines the influence of context-related risks in operative work in contract-based R&D alliances by comparing critical incidents from four R&D alliance projects experienced by alliance operative leaders in two contextual settings - each containing two different types of risks: relational and performance. The results indicate that the different risks influence certain critical aspects of the operative work in the studied projects; these have implications for individuals working in alliances that are exposed to these types of risks. However, the findings also indicate that there are other aspects, related to relationship and trust building in the R&D alliance operative work, that are critical in both of the research contexts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
World Scientific, 2011
Keyword
R&D alliances, critical incidents, risk, operational work
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-24100 (URN)10.1142/S0219877011002428 (DOI)2-s2.0-84899807266 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20150720

Available from: 2010-08-13 Created: 2010-08-13 Last updated: 2017-01-17Bibliographically approved
4. R&D Alliances: operational and top management challenges for HRM.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>R&D Alliances: operational and top management challenges for HRM.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-24101 (URN)
Note
QC 20100813Available from: 2010-08-13 Created: 2010-08-13 Last updated: 2010-08-13Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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Output format
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