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Organizing beyond Boundaries: Capabilities and Design


This dissertation examines the question of how firms design formal mechanisms to support the development of capabilities for organizing beyond the traditional boundaries of factory and office. This question is of growing interest in strategy as a result of several ongoing developments: increased modularization of products and processes that enable coordination outside of the firm; continued advances in digital and communications technologies that enable rich communication; and the further growth of franchising systems, platforms and ecosystems that operate based on coordinating agents who are often not internal employees. Firms can stand to benefit from greater scale and scope when organizing beyond boundaries, but must face the challenges of executing reliably with less direct control over operations. To better understand these potential benefits and challenges, I use conceptual and design methods to develop frameworks regarding the relationship between firm strategy and organizing beyond boundaries. In Chapter 1, I introduce a framework for understanding organizational capabilities in terms of information processing. The framework enables conceptualizing capabilities in terms of their ability to scale, which is a critical issue in organizing beyond boundaries but has been less examined in prior literature. In Chapter 2, I examine how firms may structure the physical and representational spaces in which routines are performed, considered as an increasingly important source of control given less ability when organizing beyond boundaries to specify processes directly. In Chapter 3, I then examine design strategies when organizing beyond boundaries, which I link to a greater focus on developing broad systems over the long-run. Overall, the dissertation thus contributes to our understanding of firm strategy in organizing beyond boundaries by developing insights into the dynamics and spaces of micro-level organizational action and routines, as well as the macro-level implications for design strategy.

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