The inter-organisational collaboration perspective is not new. Phoenician merchants have used this perspective while setting up joint ventures to limit their risks in overseas trading. What is new are the ways in which efficiency alliances are interacting and changing the terms of competition, the strategies of companies, and the work of managers. Alliances are both a cause and an effect of intensive competition. Collaboration can help firms to lower costs and risks, to expand markets, to develop new products and to learn or create new knowledge.
One of the challenges is building capability that is flexible and dynamic, easy to understand and manage, valued by people, and supportive of a broad based learning culture.
Another challenge, when we talk collaboration, is to forget the traditional understanding that the boundaries of companies are well defined, and instead view the boundaries of companies as more floating. Companies in network have to understand that the success of every single company depends on the performance of every single partner in the network. The actors in the network must construct a mutual win-win situation for everybody.
One of the first steps to accomplish this is that companies have to change their view on the supply chain concept. Companies must understand their key suppliers as allied partners. The traditional arm’s length perspective on supply chain has to change from only viewing suppliers as organisations with which they maintain transactional relationship to establishing a joint improvement and learning culture with these organisations. Simply, if companies want to create new capabilities and improve their competitiveness, they must combine their knowledge and skills in a unique way, and create improvement and learning links to enable personal and information systems to work together closely.
Although only limited research has been done in this area it is clear that creating a joint improvement and learning culture between organisations is not easy. One of the first major step to explore this field was started in 2001 when a three year EU-funded project was established under the project name CO-IMPROVE (Collaborative Improvement Tool for the Extended Enterprise). CO-IMPROVE involved universities from Denmark, Ireland, Italy and The Netherlands, two software vendors in Greece and Sweden, and three EMEs consisting of three systems integrators (i.e. customers) located in Denmark, Italy and The Netherlands, respectively, and three to four suppliers each, located in these countries and, in the Italian and Dutch cases, in Austria and Germany as well. This PhD thesis is developed with outset in this research programme.
The backbone of the thesis is based on eight articles, exploring this field and contributing to theory and practice. In an article collection based thesis, the articles are usually summarised and discussed in part one of such a thesis. The present thesis is not following this model. Instead we explore, analyse and discuss the results presented in the eight articles from a new perspective. More specifically, we explore two research questions “Which factors enable/disable learning in a collaborative improvement setting and how?” and “To what extent and how does learning affect collaborative improvement performance?”
|Status||Udgivet - 2006|