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Knowledge as a Contingency Factor: Achieving Coordination in Interorganizational Systems

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Doctoral thesis

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Organizational research shows how mismatches between organizational design characteristics and contingency factors lead to lower performance. In addition to classic contingency factors, knowledge is a powerful resource that influences performance. This research explores knowledge as a structural contingency factor for interorganizational systems. It explores the performance effects of different types of knowledge i.e., tacit and explicit interacting with organizational coordination mechanisms e.g., direct supervision and mutual adjustment in the highly complex environment of crisis events e.g., natural disasters where multiple organizations often rapidly develop reciprocal interdependencies. In those events, teams of boundary spanners often work to coordinate the interorganizational response hence, understanding how performance is affected by the interaction of knowledge types available and various coordination mechanisms is useful to managers. Using a mixed methodology design, this research extends structural contingency theory to the interorganizational level. First, immersive qualitative field research is conducted to observe widely dispersed organizations during a developing crisis. Those observations help formulate a baseline agent-based computational organizational model. Using that baseline, theoretically driven changes are made to create unique models that populate each quadrant of a two factorial experiment design. A Monte Carlo simulation of each model generates performance effects e.g., speed and project risk of different types of coordination mechanisms interacting with different types of knowledge. This research shows that a mutual adjustment coordination mechanism is most fit when teams are made up of people with a high level of tacit knowledge.

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  • Information Science

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