The role of project collaboration quality and knowledge
integration capability in multi-partner projects
Pernille Eskerod, Department of Environmental and Business Economics, University of Southern Denmark, Esbjerg, Denmark
Darren Dalcher, National Centre for Project Management, Middlesex University, London, U.K.
Birinder Sandhawalia, National Centre for Project Management, Middlesex University, London, U.K.
In many project-based industries, there has recently been an increased tendency for collaboration and co-creation of value with the customers. However, many existing studies report inherent challenges and complexities related to multi-partner collaboration. This article presents a conceptual framework that explains the focal collaboration-related elements and their interdependencies in multi-partner projects. The elements in the framework and relations between them are derived from the existing empirical studies and theoretical literature on collaboration, knowledge integration, and project success. Based on the conceptual analysis of the extant literature, we identify eight collaboration antecedents and three collaboration outcome elements. The conceptual framework explains how two collaboration mediators, project collaboration quality and knowledge integration capability, relate collaboration antecedents with collaboration outcomes. In addition, based on the literature analysis, we identify 15 mechanisms that enhance the project collaboration quality in multi-partner projects. The article provides novel insights on the dynamics of collaboration in multi-partner projects by offering the concepts of project collaboration quality and knowledge integration capability and explaining their role in collaborative projects.
Keywords: Multi-partner projects, collaboration, knowledge integration, high-performance teams, integration mechanisms
In many industries, the key to success lies in the ability to attract and accomplish projects (Brady & Davies, 2004; Crawford, 2006; Söderlund, 2008; Turner, Ledwith, & Kelly, 2009). In some domains, attracting and accomplishing projects require that a number of partners work together. A typical example is in the construction sector: Glückler and Armbrüster (2003) state that construction is characterized by significant co-production of outputs. Furthermore, many organizations within the sector are reported to be reacting to the demand from clients for an integrated construction process which expands the value chain of the project resulting in a whole life cycle of construction, that is, development, completion, and operations being taken into consideration (Van Sante, 2009).
The long-term, integrated construction process demanding multiple services in an increasing global world has made it widely recognized that engineering consultancy companies as well as construction companies enter into various kinds of co-operation arrangements in order to create value together (Damgaard & Eskerod, 1998; Dyer & Nobeoka, 2000). Such co-creation of values enables companies to overcome lack of competencies and resource scarcity in the bidding process, as well as in the project process. In other words, the conditions in the construction sector often require extensive inter-firm collaboration.
Unfortunately, a recent European industry review report concluded that the construction sector (when compared to other sectors) is characterized by high costs resulting from failure (Van Sante, 2009). The report suggests that “lower failure costs [can be obtained] by involving construction companies at an early stage” (p. 22).
The construction sector is not unique: Demands for inter-firm collaboration also exist in many other project-based industries, for example, in a high-technology industry such as the semiconductor industry where the competition is intensive and the work increasingly complex (Daniel & Davis, 2009). Indeed a typical approach to reducing risk and uncertainty in complex environment is through the creation of collaborative ventures that share some of the risks while benefiting from the pooled expertise.
A project accomplished by multiple partners can be seen as a knowledge collective, which is characterized by cross-disciplinary, loosely coupled groups with a minimal common knowledge base (Lindkvist, 2005). Project-based collaboration, often spanning across national borders and between organizations, is challenging due to a multitude of reasons, including the fact that the actors belong to different communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991) and the temporary nature of alliances that are formed to deliver new outputs together. Farris and Cordero (2002) further state that due to the increasing complexity and diversity of the technical workforce, workplace tensions for scientists and engineers are likely to increase in the future.
Even though both project management literature and team performance literature are rich in research and advice on how to create high-performing teams, there is very little work concerned with the factors behind high-performing collaborations between partners leading to knowledge integration in a project setting. A key aim of this article is to determine factors influencing collaboration in multi-partner projects. By this we attempt to fill a gap in the literature on a phenomenon that seems to become increasingly more relevant in empirical settings.
In order to accomplish a multi-partner project, the partners must be willing and able to share knowledge. Integration of knowledge possessed by the various partners is an essential part of the project work. We posit that knowledge integration capability is an important element of high-performing collaboration in a project context. Therefore, literature on knowledge integration practices will be examined and integrated into the proposed model.
In the next section of this article, we discuss relevant concepts from the existing literature. Thereafter the research question and the research method are presented. In the following sections, we introduce the novel concepts of knowledge integration capability and collaboration quality. Furthermore, we discuss elements related to collaboration outcomes. We also report on a literature study in which we have identified collaboration antecedents, meaning factors that have been proven in empirical studies to have a direct effect on the quality of collaboration. This section is followed by two discussion sections on relationships between the various elements. We subsequently synthesize the literature study and the discussions by offering a conceptual model for collaboration in multi-partners projects. Hypotheses related to the model can be found in the Appendix. Further, we point to examples of mechanisms for improving knowledge integration capability and project collaboration quality. In addition, we indicate the limitations of the article and conclude by identifying propositions for further research.
Inter-Organizational Collaboration in Projects
Collaboration is a recursive process where people or organizations work together in an intersection of common goals by sharing knowledge, learning, and building consensus. In collaboration processes, individuals or organizations create relationships. The nature of a relationship may vary depending on its strength (Granovetter, 1973). Relationships in which organizations operate in truly collaborative mode to achieve common goal or gain mutual benefits are also called embedded relations and are generally characterized by trust and commitment (Uzzi, 1997).
Recently several studies have been conducted on inter-organizational collaboration in project-based organizations (Ahola, 2009; Eloranta, 2007) in which the transactions between organizations are executed through projects. This type of organizing is characteristic of several industries such as shipbuilding (Ahola, 2009), oil and gas (Olsen, Haugland, Karlsen, & Husøy, 2005), construction (Bresnen, 2007), sports and events (Larson & Wikström, 2007) and consulting (Jang & Lee, 1998).
Collaboration between different actors in project-based industries is viewed as the key success factor in projects (Gransberg, Dillon, Reynolds, & Boyd, 1999; Vaaland, 2004). Existing research on collaboration between project actors often focuses on customer-supplier relations. For example, several studies have examined the role and process of partnering in construction projects (e.g. Bresnen, 2007; Errasti, Beach, Oyarbide, & Santos, 2007). Prevalent research indicates that collaboration between customer and supplier reduces the costs of controlling, decreases the probability of failure, and creates potential for innovations and learning (Ahola, 2009; Dubois & Gadde, 2000; Ingram & Baum, 2001). In addition, in-depth empirical studies have been executed to understand other essential relations between different project actors and their effect on the project performance (Ahola 2009; Artto, Eloranta & Kujala, 2008). For example, Ahola (2009) studied the role of inter-organizational relationships in project implementation in the shipbuilding industry. The results of the study indicate that a high degree of trust and dependence in inter-organizational relationships seems to moderate the negative effects of unforeseen critical incidents.
In addition to the numerous benefits related to collaborative relations, collaboration has also distinct cost effects, depending on the level and type of collaboration exercised. The costs of collaboration emanate from the activities pursued to enhance the exchange of information and resolve conflicts between interdependent actors (Rice, 1992). Moreover, the establishment of collaborative relationships between organizations in project-based industries involves several challenges emanating from the three special characteristics of project business: discontinuity of demand, uniqueness of project transactions, and complexity of actor network (Skaates & Tikkanen, 2003). The discontinuity of demand is related to the temporally limited nature of projects that creates pressure for a supplying actor to enforce the continuation of the business. The temporal nature of project transactions inherently complicates the emergence of long-term collaborative relations between project actors. In addition, discontinuity of demand for projects is shown to lead to awkwardness in establishing of trust and commitment between the actors (Eloranta, 2007). Moreover, due to the discontinuous nature of business transactions, the willingness of customer organizations to engage in a collaborative business relation with the suppliers depends on the success of the singular project (Hadjikhani, 1996).
The uniqueness of the project transactions challenges learning from projects and, therefore, can be seen as a counterforce that prevents efficiency in project-based operations. The uniqueness of goals and social structure in projects also creates a need for a knowledge integrator role that ensures that the specialized and unique constellation of knowledge possessed by the collaborating actors will be integrated to achieve a common goal (Davies, 2004). Finally, the network of actors with divergent objectives and incentives in the multi-partner project constitute challenges for collaboration. Studies on project networks have identified that the network of single project actors is shaped by the long-term business network that affects, and in turn, is itself affected by the projects in which actors participate (Ahola, 2009; Hadjikhani, 1996; Hellgren & Stjernberg, 1995). For example, Artto et al. (2008) studied risk management practices in two project contractor firms. They analyzed in four triadic settings the sub-contractor's relationships to the other subcontractor, contractor, client contractor's competitor and non-business actor. The findings indicate that competitive business relationships between subcontractors pose a major risk source for the project.
Research Question and Research Method
It has already been shown that inter-organizational collaboration in projects is characterized by several managerial challenges as a consequence of uniqueness of the projects, temporal limitedness of the project transactions, and multiplicity of different actors involved. Some of the most focal challenges relate to integrating the knowledge of different actors to serve the achievement of common goal and ensuring well functioning collaboration between the different actors in order to avoid dysfunctional conflicts. In order to examine the nature of these two challenges, we ask the following research question:
“What is the role of knowledge integration capability and collaboration quality in collaborative multi-partner projects?”
In this article, we approach this research question through a literature study approach. Project collaboration quality and knowledge integration capability are hypothesized as moderating factors connecting collaborating antecedents and collaboration outcomes. The hypothesized role of project collaboration quality and knowledge integration capability is depicted in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Initial research model.
Using the initial research model as guiding frame, three types of literature searches on existing empirical and conceptual studies are executed. The first one focuses on identifying the collaboration antecedent and examining the relationship between knowledge integration capability and collaboration outcomes. The second one concentrates on identifying collaboration antecedents and examining the relationship between collaboration antecedents and project collaboration quality. The third one includes an examination of the relationship between project collaboration quality and knowledge integration capability.
The literature search in each of the three areas focuses on studies dealing explicitly with the examined relationship in question. The literal searches are executed using EBSCO-database complemented with Google Scholar search. Since the aim of the research is not to execute complete literature reviews on the selected topic but merely to examine the relationships between different concepts, we have limited the number of refereed studies in this article and provide only those that are essential in order to answer our research question.
Knowledge Integration Capability
Knowledge integration refers to the ability of a project organization to turn knowledge into action. Grant (1996) argues that the integration of knowledge, either explicitly or implicitly, of individuals from different competence areas is difficult, and advocates integrating specialist individual knowledge to achieve effective knowledge collaboration and application. Knowledge integration capabilities are required to collaborate and integrate specialist knowledge from different competence areas. Gold, Malhotra, and Segars (2001) identify information technology, organizational structure, and culture as infrastructure capabilities, and creation, integration, application, and protection as process capabilities required to achieve knowledge integration.
Information technology facilitates knowledge flow and eliminates barriers to communication within an organization. A flexible organizational structure encourages knowledge sharing and collaboration across boundaries within a project organization and is shaped by the organization's policies, processes, and system of rewards and incentives, which determine the channels knowledge flow and integration (Leonard-Barton, 1995). Project organization culture is central to encourage interaction and collaboration between individuals to facilitate knowledge flow, and also provides individuals with the ability to self-organize their own knowledge and participate in communities of practice to facilitate solutions for problems and share knowledge (O'Dell & Grayson, 1998).
Knowledge integration is made possible through the processes and activities of synthesizing, refinement, combination, coordination, distribution, and restructuring of knowledge. Shared contexts and common representation are required for knowledge integration, and mechanisms for facilitating the same are group problem solving and decision making. Knowledge creation is enabled by the processes and activities of interaction, feedback, innovation, brainstorming, and benchmarking. Information technologies like email, repositories, intranet portals, teleconferencing, and the activities of mentoring, collaboration, and training play a key role in transferring knowledge. Forums such as communities of practice, centers of excellence, and training provide a platform for the transfer of knowledge.
Certain project organization conditions are essential to complement knowledge integration capabilities and facilitate the process. Grant's (1996) theory of knowledge integration synthesizes the need to externalize tacit knowledge and ensure its accessibility (Marwick, 2001), and the underlying activities through which knowledge is acquired (Huber, 1991), created (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995), shared (Brown & Duguid, 1991) and applied (Blackler, 1995). The theory can be applied to the need for specialization to achieve economies of scope, or differentiation (Lawrence & Lorsch, 1967), and for linking the mechanisms that streamline and coordinate the specialized activities and expertise of high performing project teams. A project organization's competitiveness depends on the diversity and strategic value of specialized knowledge and the ability to integrate it in an effective manner. Knowledge integration can be seen as “an ongoing collective process of constructing, articulating, and redefining shared beliefs through the social interaction of organizational members” (Huang, 2000, p.15), and helps high-performing project teams achieve and manage complex tasks and activities, However, Huang, Newell, and Pan (2001) argue that current conceptualization of how knowledge is integrated within the context of coordinating specialized expertise and tasks remains limited. It is therefore important to explore the dynamics of knowledge integration within and beyond the boundaries of high-performing project teams. These teams generate ideas that did not previously exist and manage strategic and complex change initiatives, such as implementing new solutions and process innovations, by focusing on creativity and innovation through collective input.
Grant (1996) argues that an organization's knowledge integration capacity is determined by the two crucial mechanisms of direction and organizational routines. Direction enables communication between specialists by codifying tacit knowledge into explicit rules (Demsetz, 1991), and organizational routines reduce the need for communicating explicit knowledge. Grant (1996) further states that the efficiency, scope, and flexibility of integration determine organizational competitiveness. The level of efficiency depends on the extent to which common knowledge, or understanding within a context, exists within project teams. Newell and Huang (2005) argue that when common knowledge is created, different specialists need to practice continuously to facilitate seamless coordination of knowledge among team members. The scope of integration refers to the level of complexity underlying the integration of differentiated knowledge, implying that a sufficient level of common knowledge may not be accessible when the scope of integration widens: Therefore, the greater the scope of integration, the lower the level of integration efficiency that is possible. It is hard for competitors to replicate integration capability such as a project organization's integrated knowledge which is wide in scope and based upon the experience gained from implementing previous projects. An important aspect of knowledge integration is the willingness to combine knowledge from within and outside the team. The more differentiated the knowledge inputs needed, the higher the knowledge diversity and greater the scope for knowledge integration. A project organization's capacity for reconfiguring existing knowledge to promote continuous innovation determines the degree of integration flexibility, which provides competitive advantage (Newell & Huang, 2005).
Newell and Huang (2005) state that project organization, social capital, collaboration, objective measures, and attitudes towards learning strongly influence the creation of common knowledge. Social capital requires a facilitating organizational structure (Nahapiet & Ghoshal, 1998) and collaboration promotes formation of ties and configuration between team members, while measures provide tangible benefits to be gained by creating common knowledge. Team members need to be able to identify the value to be gained in creating common knowledge, and therefore learn and contribute to the effort. Further, Newell and Huang (2005) argue a project organization's “….past integration experience is found to be a perquisite condition, formed and based on the collective results of past project implementation experience,” and “….embedded practices reflect an organization structure which may either facilitate or impede knowledge integration.” They state that in the context of cross-functional project implementation, the way in which team members mobilize their social capital and diffuse project awareness through creating common knowledge is crucial. Social capital is developed in project organizations by promoting collaborative practices to encourage the sharing of common knowledge between team members performing nonroutine tasks. While Grant's (1996) theory focused on standard organizational routines, knowledge integration within the context of project teams is a continuous process through which social capital facilitates the connection, disconnection, and/or reconnection between different stakeholder groups (Newell & Huang, 2005) seeking to collaborate.
Project Collaboration Quality
Collaboration between different organizations and organizational parts is often critical for the accomplishment of the common goal and is therefore an important factor that explains organizational outcomes and performance. The relationship between project outcomes and collaboration has been the focus of several previous studies (e.g., Ahola, 2009; Artto et al., 2008; Dubois & Gadde, 2000). Existing empirical studies have evaluated the quality or performance of collaboration based on the outcomes of the collaborative actions. In a similar vein, an extensive amount of research has been conducted to identify the factors that enhance collaboration between different actors (e.g., Dodgson, 1993; Hoegl, Weinkauf, & Gemuenden, 2004; Jap, 1999; Mohr & Spekman, 1994). These studies provide valuable information for managers trying to understand how to design efficient collaborative relationships. However, they do not address directly how well the collaboration is really working, but merely its consequential effects.
In this article, we define the quality of collaboration, not through its expected consequences, but on the basis of the fluency of interactional activities taking place between the collaborative actors. Thus, we distinguish the quality of collaboration from its effectual elements identified in the previous research. Indeed, previous research on inter-organizational relationships has introduced similar ideas through the terms relationship quality (Walter, Müller, Helfert, & Ritter, 2003) and relationship atmosphere (Ritter & Gemünden, 2003). Westphal, Thoben, and Seifert (2007) use the term collaboration performance in assessing the performance of virtual organizations. In addition, Hoegl and Gemuenden (2001) and later Hoegl et al. (2004) used the term teamwork quality to refer the quality of a team's internal interactions.
We therefore derive the concept from the previous work of Hoegl and Gemuenden (2001) and utilize similar ideology and conceptual framework to introduce the term collaboration quality. The concept is based on the following five elements through which the quality of collaboration is assessed: communication, coordination, mutual support, aligned efforts, and cohesion (see Table 1).
Table 1 Elements of collaboration quality (modified from Hoegl & Gemuenden, 2001)
|Element||Code||High quality characteristics|
|Communication||COM||Sufficient, open, and efficient information exchange between collaborative actors.|
|Coordination||COR||Shared mutual understanding on goals, necessary activities, and contributions needed to be performed by collaborating actors.|
|Mutual support||MS||Willingness of collaborating actors to help each other in achieving commonly agreed goals. Existence of mutual flexibility in case of unforeseen incidents and changes.|
|Aligned efforts||ALEF||Alignment of contributions provided by collaborating actors with the expectations of the contributions. The correspondence between actors' priorities in collaboration (e.g., resource usage) and commonly agreed priorities.|
|Cohesion||COHE||Existence of the collaborative spirit between actors.|
Communication is a process by which information is exchanged between individuals or groups through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior (Merriam-Webster online Dictionary1). The quality of communication in a collaborative setting indicates the ability of collaborative actors to share their ideas openly and to ensure that the frequency of communication is high enough in order to keep all parties informed of any changes (Hoegl & Gemünden, 2001). In addition, high quality in communication also covers the aspect of communication costs and efficiency. The costs of communication are related to both frequency of communication and utilized communication media (Daft & Lengel, 1986).
High-quality coordination refers to the shared mutual understanding of the goals, related activities, interdependencies between the activities, and the status of member contributions (Hoegl & Gemünden, 2001). It is meant to be efficient and is thus tailored to knowledge and information sharing needs of each situation. High-quality coordination is a prerequisite for fluency of interactions in collaborative settings and ensures harmonized and synchronized co-action. Well-coordinated tasks are also less apt to emergence from conflicts (Alter, 1990).
An integral part of high-quality collaboration is the existence of mutual support from participating actors, which enforces actors to achieve agreed goals and provides flexibility in the case of unforeseen incidents (see Ahola, 2009). Several studies have mentioned adaptability and the ability to compromise as characteristics of a well-functioning collaborative process (for review, see Mattessich & Monsey, 1992). In addition to mutual support, high-quality collaboration is also characterized by shared expectations on the behavior of each actor. Alignment between expectations on efforts pursued by collaborative actors and the realized efforts has a prominent role in preventing disappointments and the emergence of conflicts. Group researchers emphasize the role of norms as mechanisms to share expectations on behavior (Feldman, 1984). Norms increase the predictability of the behavior of collaborative actors. High-quality collaboration requires that each collaborative participant accepts and respects the norms concerning required efforts. Finally, high-quality collaboration in projects is characterized by cohesion—the collaborative spirit between actors. Some researchers have found that cohesions in one of the key issues that determine the individual's willingness to engage in collaboration (Cohen & Bailey, 1997). Moreover, cohesion creates the feeling of togetherness, strengthens the nature of collaborative relationship, and nurtures open sharing of information and knowledge.
The literature study has pointed to three main types of outcomes related to collaboration of partners within projects: project success, potential for learning and innovation, and commitment to future collaborations. We only report on a small number of contributions from the existing literature which is representative and sufficient to progress our discussion.
In the early days of project management, project success was related to achievement of planned outcomes in terms of specifications, time, and budget (PMI, 2008). Dalcher (2009) contends that these are measures concerned with the internal efficiency of project management tasks. However, today it is generally recognized that this perception of project success is too limiting and that a broader definition is needed (Andersen, Birchall, Jessen, & Money, 2006; Atkinson, 1999; Dalcher & Brodie, 2007; Dalcher, 2009; Pinto & Slevin, 1988; Wateridge, 1998). Indeed the effectiveness of projects also needs to be considered to establish their relative success (Dalcher 2009). Inspired by the concept of Munns and Bjerimi (1996) on project management success and Baccarini (1999) on product success, Andersen et al (2006) define project success as the sum of project management success and project product success. The former relates to successful accomplishments of outcomes related to cost, time, and quality objectives, while the latter relates to the extent by which the project meets “the project owner's strategic organizational objectives, satisfaction of users' needs, and satisfaction of stakeholders' needs where they relate to the product” (Andersen et al, 2006, pp. 128–129). Others have suggested additional levels of success in projects including an extended focus on the business value and the long-term opportunities that can be exploited (see for example, Dalcher, 2009).
Based on the revised understanding of project success, Andersen et al. (2006) have conducted an empirical study aimed at understanding the relationship between project success factors and actual project success. The findings indicate that the key factors for project success are that “project participants have an open and efficient way of informing each other as necessary,” that “in project meetings, there is a good and efficient flow of information,” and that “the project has well-established information and communication routines” (p. 141). These factors are closely related to efficient knowledge integration and collaboration between project participants. Another finding was that strong project commitment was closely related to the ability to deliver the project product. In order to establish project commitment, it was important that “all end-user needs and desires are discussed with and agreed by the project's key executors” (p. 141). This is also closely related to communication and collaboration between the project participants. The overall implication of the research conducted by Andersen et al. is that “project managers should devote increasing energies into rich communication both within the project and towards the project environment. This implies a stronger stakeholder orientation as a means for ensuring project success whether the stakeholder is internal or external to the organization” (Andersen et al., 2006, p. 144).
This line of reasoning is supported by Eriksson, Atkin, & Nilsson (2009) who state that “Higher levels of cooperation in partnering approaches are commonly regarded as a potential solution for a range of problems (e.g., conflicts and disputes, time and cost overruns, and poor productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction)” (p. 598). Additional support is also provided by a collection of failed engineering and IT project stories that share common deficiencies in the areas of management of expectations, communication between stakeholders and partners, trust, relationship management, and facilitating contracts as some of the common trends found across the different failure stories collected from across cultures and countries (Dalcher, 2009).
Another relevant line of research relates to collaboration between project partners as a means for learning and innovations. As a project by definition is characterized by a certain degree of uniqueness, a project can be considered as a good arena for both personal and organizational learning (Ays, 1996; Keegan & Turner, 2001; Lundin & Midler, 1998). Furthermore, it may not be possible to produce a well-defined outline of the content of the project beforehand. This is especially acknowledged in the organizational perspective on project management offered by Andersen (Andersen, 2008; Andersen et al., 2006; Andersen, Dysvik, & Vaagaasar, 2009). This perspective emphasizes that the rationale of the project is to create a foundation for a positive development for the permanent organization that has initiated the project. Innovations along the way may be necessary in order for the project to be able to bring relevance and significant values to the organization. This is possible when partners with different knowledge competence areas are working together. However, learning and innovation during the course of a project place big challenges on the participants and call for communication, knowledge integration, and collaboration because tasks, means, and perhaps goals may not be determined at the start of the project and strong interdependence may exist. Daniel and Davis (2009) point to the need for frequent discussions, debates, and extensive communications when the purpose of the project is to develop new technologies as the project participants may be faced by many technological and functional challenges during the project course. The lack of such communication has been cited as a common factor among failing projects (Dalcher, 2009). Indeed, when the communication and knowledge integration functions work well, the collaboration creates the potential for innovation and learning (Ahola, 2009; Barlow, Cohen, Jashapara, & Simpson, 1997; Dubois & Gadde, 2000; Ingram & Baum, 2001).
A third line of research we have found interesting as related to collaboration outcomes is the identification of potential future collaborations. Davis and Walker (2009) state that “many organizations try to maximize their dynamic capabilities through leveraging employees' stock of knowledge and expertise to work with collaborating organizations” (p. 476). According to Eriksson, Atkin, & Nilsson (2008), clients tend to change suppliers between projects. This is a result of a short-term focus on single projects. However, an outcome of a successful collaboration may induce hope and expectations for future collaborations and serve as a basis for a contractor's motivation in partnering relationships (Bresnen & Marshall, 2000). The prospect of a longer-term relationship may decrease opportunism and increase trust (Barlow et al., 1997; Bennett & Jayes, 1998; Lazar, 2000).
Collaboration Antecedents and Project Collaboration Quality
The concept of “collaboration antecedent” refers to a factor that is proven to have a direct effect on the quality of collaboration. Extensive amount of research has focused on trying to understand what factors or issues cause challenges and enable collaboration. Researchers have studied collaboration in a wide variety of divergent contexts such as supply channels (Johnson, 1999), partnerships and joint ventures (Gransberg et al., 1999; Mohr & Spekman, 1994), project teams (Hoegl & Gemünden, 2001; Pinto, Pinto, & Prescott, 1993), between organizational units (Griffin & Hauser, 1996) and project deliveries (Bresnen, 2007). In this study, we have identified three important discussions or research areas, which we use for deriving factors that affect quality of collaboration.
The first discussion includes cross-functional collaboration (CFC) and, to a great extent, concerns collaboration between sales and marketing and R&D, but also includes studies within a construction site. The second research area builds on team and group theories and focuses on collaboration in project teams (PTC). The third area discusses collaboration in forms of inter-organizational relations (IOC). Since the source literature is rather disperse, our aim is not to give an extensive overview of all prevalent research in each area, but rather to go through only those studies that have empirically examined the relationships between one or several antecedent factor(s) (e.g., trust) and one or several elements in our collaboration quality construct. Examples of empirical studies in each of the three areas (CFC, PTC, and IOC) are summarized in Table 2.
The analysis of the empirical studies indicates that there are at least eight interrelated issues that impact directly on the fluency of collaboration between different actors. These issues are the existence of clear roles and process for collaboration, trust between actors, physical and cultural proximity, alignment of incentives, commitment to collaboration, goal congruence and collaborative goals, conflict resolution, and expectations fulfillment.
The existence of clear roles and process for collaboration facilitate the interaction between collaborating actors. The collaborative processes may benefit from appropriate communication and coordination mechanisms, policies, protocols, and standardized documentation (Martin-Rodriguez, Beaulieu, D'Amour, & Ferrada-Videla, 2005). For example Pinto et al. (1993) examined inter-unit collaboration in projects and found that project team rules improve the collaboration. In a similar vein, Sicotte, D'Amour, and Moreault (2002) studied inter-disciplinary collaboration in community health centers and found that formalization fosters inter-professional collaboration. Also the results of Silén-Lipponen, Turunen, and Tossavainen (2002) show that rules and procedures represent an important role in collaboration between professionals.
Several academic exercises have been conducted to understand the effects of trust on collaboration in different contextual environments. The studies prove that trust increases the quality of collaboration in terms of the means of communication behavior and cohesion. For example, Mohr and Spekman (1994) showed that trust is an important characteristic required to enforce collaboration in successful partnerships. Paul and McDaniel (2004) found that interpersonal trust is positively related to collaborative behavior in virtual teams. Diallo and Thuiller (2005) found that trust improved the quality of communication between different stakeholders in projects. Moreover, findings from empirical studies in technological collaboration (Dodgson, 1993), distribution channels (Jap, 1999), and product development (Wagner & Hoegl, 2006) reveal that trust has positive effects on the quality of collaboration.
Some studies have shown the positive effects of physical proximity to collaborative behavior. Van de Bulte and Moenart (1998) examined R&D team co-location and found a positive relationship between co-location and the frequency of communication. Also other empirical studies have shown that co-locating people enables informal communication, enhances the creation of shared understanding, and increases cohesion between collaborative actors (Kahn & McDonough III, 1997; Moodysson & Jonsson, 2007; Pinto et al., 1993). In addition to physical proximity, the cultural dimension on proximity has been identified to have positive effect on collaboration. Arslanian-Engoren (1995) did a phenomenological study on collaboration in teams and found that cultural proximity—understanding the practices of other collaborating actors was positively related to collaborative behavior. Liedtka and Whitten (1998) found that different values, work styles, and personality traits have a negative effect on inter-professional collaboration in hospitals. Furthermore studies in R&D and marketing collaboration show that inherent personality differences, differences in cultural thought worlds, and lingual differences lead to major challenges that hinder collaboration between these two functions (Griffin & Hauser, 1996).
In multi-partner projects, different participating actors are motivated by the incentives provided by collaboration. In order to guarantee that each of the collaborating actors support the achievement of the common goal and there exists mutual support between collaborating actors, the incentives of the different actors should be aligned. Faerman, McCaffrey, & Van Slyke (2001) studied public-private collaboration and found that alignment of incentives serves as one of the most important issues that are related to success of the collaborative process. Dodgson (1993) emphasizes the importance of community of interests in the establishment of collaboration. Without any doubt, alignment of incentives is an important factor in well-working collaboration. However, recent study of Bresnen and Marshall (2000) revealed that most of the incentive systems used in alliance and partnering projects do not provide expected motivation for collaborating actors due to disregard of cognitive and individual differences, disregard of the impact of social relations, and focusing solely on extrinsic rewards a source of motivation. While alignment of incentives serves as one important factor contributing to quality of collaboration, an actor's commitment to a project task has a significant effect on collaboration quality. Commitment is found to be one of the key success factors in inter-organizational collaboration (Mohr & Spekman, 1994). Commitment increases collaborators' genuine interests to participate, engage in mutual support, and set actors' priorities to favor the collaborative task at hand. Hoegl et al. (2004) found that commitment has a positive effect on teamwork quality in product development projects. Empirical studies prove similar results also in cross-disciplinary collaboration in the hospital context (Liedtka & Whitten, 1998).
Research studies indicate that the existence of congruent and collaborative goals weakens dysfunctional conflicts, thereby increasing the quality of collaboration (O'Leary-Kelly, Martocchio, & Frink, 1994; Pinto et al., 1993). Tjosvold (1988) found that collaborative goals increase the information exchange between collaborating actors. Conversely, competitive goals are found to be related to suspicion, low levels of information exchange, low morale for collaboration (Tjosvold, 1988), and major risks in projects (Artto et al., 2008). Some researchers argue that conflicts are an evident part of collaborative projects and should be managed by formal and informal governance mechanisms to strengthen the relationship between the collaborating actors (Vaaland, 2004). The relationship between conflict resolution and collaboration has been tested in empirical studies. For example, Tjosvold, Hui, Ding, and Hu (2003) showed that positive attitude to conflict is positively related to collaborative interaction in teams. Some studies have found a negative relationship between conflict and collaboration (Duarte & Davies, 2003), while others emphasize also the positive aspects of conflicts (Vaaland & Håkanson, 2003). De Dreu and Weingart (2003) executed meta-analysis on the effects of relational and task conflicts on team performance and team member satisfaction and found that both of these conflict types are negatively related to team performance and team member satisfaction. These findings strengthen the notion that resolving conflicts has a direct positive effect on collaboration quality.
Finally, existing studies on collaboration reveal that fulfillment of expectations is positively related to the quality of collaboration. Walter et al. (2003) showed that a supplier's fulfillment of expected direct and indirect supplier functions, such as providing economic and social benefits for the customer are positively related to the quality of the relationship. The case study by Hadjikhani (1996) showed that previous shared history has important meaning in new collaborative relationships. Fulfillment of expectations decreased the need to control the behavior of collaborating partners and improved the alignment of efforts and the cohesion between the collaborating parties.
Table 2: Examples of collaboration antecedents in empirical studies within CFC, PTC, and IOC discourses
|Area||Central arguments/results related to collaboration||Study overview||Authors|
|CFC||Cooperative goals are related to trusting expectations, resource and information exchange, efficiency of collaboration, and confidence for future collaboration. Competitive goals are related to suspicion, low level of information exchange, and low morale for collaboration.||Empirical study on interaction between units in public health agency||Tjosvold, 1988|
|CFC||Superordinate goals, physical proximity, and project team rules are positively correlated with the cross-functional collaboration.||Empirical study on inter-unit collaboration in 131 hospitals||Pinto et al., 1993|
|CFC||Co-location increases frequency of communication but is moderated by the content and communication media.||Empirical study on the effects of R&D team co-location on communication between different organizational functions||Van den Bulte & Moenart, 1998|
|CFC||Alignment of incentives and physical closeness are positively related to integration performance.||Empirical study of effects of different integration mechanisms to integration of R&D in 148 pharmaceutical companies||Leenders & Wierenga, 2002|
|CFC||Boundary objectives, that is, a common workmen's shed, lean construction, and an evaluation meeting, facilitate cross disciplinary discussions. Further, translators and brokers facilitate communication and knowledge diffusion across demarcation lines and contribute to solving relevant issues.||Action research on collaboration between skilled construction workers and designers at a construction site||Christensen, 2008|
|PTC||Commonly agreed goals of the group are positively related to group performance through more efficient collaboration.||Meta-analytical study on the effect of group goals on group performance||O'Leary-Kelly et al., 1994|
|PTC||Positive conflict attitudes and approaching conflict contributes to strong relationship. Open conflict management, can be used as resolution of issues that reduces competitive interaction within the team.||Empirical study of conflict and team relationships||Tjosvold et al., 2003|
|PTC||Commitment to project is positively correlated with teamwork quality (communication, coordination, balance of member contribution, mutual support, effort, and cohesion).||Longitudinal empirical study of product development project||Hoegl et al., 2004|
|PTC||Interpersonal trusts positively correlated with collaboration in virtual teams.||Empirical study on inter-personal trust and collaborative relationship||Paul & McDaniel, 2004|
|PTC||The level of trust is positively correlated with quality of communication.||Empirical research on communication, cooperation and project success||Diallo & Thuillier, 2005|
|IOC||Establishment and survival of collaboration requires establishment of inter-organizational trust characterized by community of interest, organizational cultures receptive to external inputs, and widespread and continually supplemented knowledge of the status and purpose of the collaboration.||Empirical study on successful technological collaboration between organizations||Dodgson, 1993|
|IOC||Coordination, commitment, trust, communication quality, information sharing, and joint problem solving are positively correlated with the success of collaborative relationships between companies.||Empirical study on characteristics of partnership success||Mohr & Spekman, 1994|
|IOC||Interpersonal trustworthiness and goal congruence between actors are positively correlated with the emergence of collaborative effort (such as joint project).||Empirical survey of 220 buyers and suppliers (in B2B market)||Jap, 1999|
|IOC||Expectation on the relationship continuity is positively correlated with the flexibility to negotiate on adjustments and with relationship quality (trust and fairness in the relationship).||Empirical study on inter-firm relations||Johnson, 1999|
|IOC||Conflict in business-to-business relationship is negatively related to actor's business performance in business-to-business relationships.||Empirical study of conflict performance relation in large financial services distributor and it's business customers||Duarte & Davies, 2003|
|IOC||Supplier's fulfillment of direct and indirect relationship functions is positively correlated with relationship quality.||Quantitative empirical research on industrial supplier relationships||Walter et al., 2003|
|IOC||The most important customer firms selection criteria for suppliers that would expect to lead to successful collaboration with suppliers: competence and qualification, trust and reliability, openness and mutual support, and congruence of goals.||Explorative empirical study on involvement suppliers in product development||Wagner & Hoegl, 2006|
Knowledge Integration Capability and Collaboration Outcomes
Collaboration is important for knowledge integration within project organizations. Many researchers have recognized the need for people to collaborate in order to sustain organizational innovativeness (Davenport, 1993; Dougherty & Hardy, 1996; Van De Ven, 1986). Since innovation is the “development and implementation of new ideas by people who over time engage in transactions with each other” (Van De Ven, 1986, pp. 590), it is evident that collaboration is critical for knowledge integration, learning, and innovation. Dougherty and Hardy (1996) point to the notion that collaborative structures of high-performing, cross-functional teams and the collaborative processes of decision making and problem solving are important for sustained innovation. Today innovations are often stimulated in IT-supported “collaboration rooms” where people can share visions and knowledge to develop ideas and concepts (Wycoff & Snead, 1999). Researchers have also found that innovations can be successfully supported by IT in remote collaborations (Rura-Polley & Baker, 2002). Collaboration has enabled hierarchical organizations to give way to flatter, more agile, and increasingly networked structures that facilitate knowledge competence and teamwork to accomplish tasks. The ability to create, store, disseminate, and utilize knowledge and expertise has become a primary way for organizations to compete (Hayashi, 2004).
Amassing and synthesizing specialized knowledge from multiple sources is a pivotal factor in resolving the technical and operational uncertainties that impede project success. Henderson and Cockburn (1994), in their study of knowledge transfer, demonstrated that project performance was related to an ability to import new external knowledge and synthesize existing internal knowledge. Access to external knowledge represents an external-to-internal transfer of knowledge, while internal knowledge integration captures an internal-to-internal transfer of knowledge. Henderson and Cockburn (1994) found that higher project performance was associated with knowledge transfer mechanisms that actively encouraged the exchange of information across organizational units and across organizational boundaries. Thus, the acquisition and integration of specialized knowledge, especially tacit, influences the collaboration outcome of project success (Leonard-Barton, 1992; Teece, Pisano, & Shuen, 1997).
Further, Sicotte and Langely (2000) articulate that formal leadership, planning and process specification, and, to a lesser extent, information technology use are related to project performance, but the positive effects of horizontal structures are balanced out by their costs. Yang's (2005) study concludes that knowledge integration and innovation exert significant positive effects on project performance. Yang's (2005) study also reveals that proper knowledge acquisition and dissemination are crucial for the learning process to increase the variability of project performance.
The importation of new knowledge, coupled with the recombination of existing knowledge, provides high-performing project teams with information and knowledge that can be leveraged to improve decision making and problem solving, and lower performance risk. Decision making is often compromised when team members fall victim to the planning fallacy, where benefits are overestimated and costs are underestimated. Moreover, the knowledge integration process involves social interactions among individuals using internal communication channels for knowledge transfer to arrive at a common perspective for problem solving. Collaborative team linkages are the primary means of transferring specialized knowledge (e.g., Tasi, 2001), which permits knowledge reuse, and the recombination of existing knowledge is an important antecedent of uncertainty resolution in organizational innovation (Marjchrzak, Cooper, & Neece, 2004; Terwiesch & Loch, 1999).
An effective collaborative mechanism for achieving knowledge integration is to coordinate the planning of interdependent work process strategies among team members. Prior research indicates knowledge integration can be achieved when project team members are involved in work process planning (Boynton, Zmud, & Jacobs, 1994). Mutual consideration of work process strengths and weaknesses allows the team members to identify requirements and capabilities for targeted work processes, predict what resources are needed to fulfill those requirements, and determine how best to deploy those resources to optimize project implementation and minimize delays (Mitchell & Zmud, 1999). The act of coordination is a knowledge integration process that facilitates a common understanding of project objectives and the means to reach those objectives, (Reich & Benbasat, 1996).
Hoopes and Postrel (1999) suggest that knowledge, coordination, and cooperation are complementary and interrelated issues but are distinct from each other in providing an organization's integration capabilities. They are of the opinion that better coordinated, more cooperative organizations that create, acquire, and use knowledge effectively should possess an advantage of converting inputs into customer satisfaction, and therefore, should be more profitable. Further, the common knowledge developed through collaboration provides the basis for future collaboration in subsequent projects. The learning and innovation, and consequent project success reinforce trust and expectations of future successes through collaboration.
Project Collaboration Quality and Knowledge Integration Capability
Tasks that require knowledge integration are communal, and collaboration is essential for locating and coordinating knowledge and expertise. Strong collaborative ties are positively associated with individual performance in knowledge integration work (Mckenzie & van Winkelen, 2004). Collaborative ties foster complex knowledge transfer because the transfer process can slow down where the complexity of knowledge is determined by the degree to which it is tacit, and whether an individual is dependent on another for the transfer and acquisition of knowledge. Collaboration enables project teams to balance multiple perspectives and stakeholder interests, based upon integrated, task-relevant knowledge support from appropriate competence areas. Thus collaboration helps create a sense-making community of practice of high-performing team members who can understand the interactions and synergy of projects through a multi-perspective view of diverse knowledge competence areas.
Collaboration is critical for interaction and sustaining knowledge integration. Briggs, Vreede, and Nunamaker (2003) report on the value of collaboration for facilitating interaction and accomplishing organizational tasks, while in inter-organizational collaboration, the tasks are significantly complex because the goals are to be accomplished by teams whose members do not share culture, communication, and coordination processes. Carmel & Tija (2005) emphasize the importance of teams for accomplishing project tasks and the required collaboration support, while Gladstein (1984), Hackman (1987), and McGrath (1984) argue that performance is a result of the interactions and dynamics among team members. Moreover, Argote and Ingram (2000) state that the utilization of knowledge embedded within a team's interactions and tasks is the key to achieving better performance.
High-performing teams are often characterized by the synergy resulting from cross-functional linkages, differing viewpoints, and team member interactions. Boutellier, Gassmann, Macho, and Roux (1998) state that teams are likely to be formed when needed skills are not available locally, suggesting that more varied teams are less likely to be drawn from similar social networks. High-performing teams have different ways of integrating and transferring knowledge compared to team members drawn from similar networks. Morrison and Kennedy (1996) suggest the need to organize, integrate, filter, and condense the common knowledge generated by the interactions of team members. Boland and Tenkasi (1995) state that it is “through action within communities of knowing that we make and remake both our language and our knowledge,” and Bourdieu (1986) notes that collaboration is a precondition for the development and maintenance of social capital and common knowledge. Collaboration is an inherent part of high-performing team work as members incorporate new knowledge and information into their common understanding of problem solving. Several researchers have investigated the importance of team work as members with diverse skills, knowledge, experiences, and expertise are required to work together to resolve the issues or problems encountered during project execution. However, a focus on the relationship of how collaboration supports knowledge integration capability appears to be limited.
Collaboration influences the efficiency, scope, and flexibility of knowledge integration which Grant (1996) identified as critical for organizational competitiveness. Collaboration aids in the generation of common knowledge and its seamless coordination between team members. The collaborative capability of a project organization helps attain a level of integration efficiency relative to the scope of integration required, and facilitates the ability to continuously innovate and maintain competitive advantage. Collaboration enables the diverse pool of high-performing project team members to access, share, and discuss knowledge uniquely distinct to each member, thus creating new or emergent knowledge not possessed before which is vital for creativity and innovation. Knowledge integration is realized by synthesizing different perspectives and expertise during decision-making and problem-solving processes, and enables different views to be incorporated. Team members bring different sets of assumptions about optimal ways to proceed, prioritizing different values and perspectives, which are integrated in the problem-solving process to develop required solutions. With problem solving being central to their work, high-performing team members recognize that failure is an opportunity for learning and understanding, making them experts in self-directed learning. Understanding failure is integral in learning to avoid mistakes, and it is therefore imperative to make an effort to support collective problem solving and reflection through collaborative processes.
Collaboration facilitates interaction of high-performing team members with diverse expertise representing different project relevant interests and issues. These distinct experiences, mental models, and motivations need to be shared between team members with a sufficient level of congruence to enable individuals to understand each other and work together towards their common goals from different perspectives. Combining previously unconnected aspects or developing ways of combining previously associated aspects, creates new common knowledge (Leonard-Barton, 1995), as team members realize that tasks are better achieved through interaction and emergent collaboration. In this way high-performing teams are likely to create new and common knowledge and engage in effective sharing and integration of knowledge to achieve their predefined goals.
The synthesis of the analysis of extant literature on collaboration, knowledge integration, and project success is summarized in conceptual framework (Figure 2). The framework explains how collaboration mediators (project collaboration quality and knowledge integration capability) connect the eight identified collaboration antecedents to the collaboration outcomes (project success, potential for learning and innovations, and future collaboration).
Figure 2: Interrelations between collaboration antecedents, collaboration mediators, and collaboration outcomes.
The analysis of the empirical literature revealed that all of the eight identified collaboration antecedents are positively related to project collaboration quality (H1–H8). For example, trust among collaboration actors increases the collaboration quality in the project. We did not hypothesize any relationships between different antecedent factors, but are aware of their existence. For example, fulfillment of expectations is positively related to trust between actors. In addition, our analysis of several studies proved that project collaboration enhances knowledge integration capability in project (H9). Moreover, the analysis of the existing studies indicated that knowledge integration capability influences project success (H10), and increases the potential for learning and innovation (H11), and the potential for engaging in future collaborations (H12). The explanations for the identified relations in our model (H1–H12) and the related literature sources are summarized in the Appendix.
Mechanisms for Improving Knowledge Integration Capability and Project Collaboration Quality
Thus far, we have proposed the concepts of collaboration quality and knowledge integration capabilities as mediators for receiving collaboration outcomes in the forms of project success, potential for innovation and learning, and potential for future collaborations. In order to fully benefit from the concepts, it is necessary to dig into concrete integration mechanisms that can enhance knowledge integration and collaboration. As mentioned in the knowledge integration capability section, some authors (Gold et al., 2001) differentiate between two different types of capabilities required to achieve knowledge integration, that is, infrastructure capabilities, for example, information technology, organizational structure, and culture; and process capabilities, for example, the means to create, integrate, apply, and protect knowledge. A number of other integration mechanisms can be identified in the literature on collaboration and knowledge integration. In Table 3, examples of integration mechanisms drawn from the current literature are presented. The mechanisms are related to the elements of collaboration quality defined in Table 1.
Table 3 shows that a variety of mechanisms can be introduced in various collaboration situations. Each mechanism covers one or more of the elements we defined as core elements of collaboration quality: communication, coordination, mutual support, aligned efforts, and cohesion.
Table 3: Examples of mechanisms to enhance collaboration and knowledge integration
|Examples of Mechanisms to Enhance Collaboration and Knowledge Integration||Elements of Collaboration Quality|
|Use a common workmen's shed to enhance informal communication||X||X||Christensen, 2008|
|Share project information through electronic means instead of paper-based methods||X||Anumba, Pan, Issa, & Mutis, 2008; Eriksson et al., 2009|
|Allow flexibility through a flexible organizational structure (shaped by the organization's policies, processes, and system of rewards and incentives)||X||Leonard-Barton, 1995|
|Create shared contexts and common representation by group problem solving and decision making||X||X||Gold et al., 2001|
|Codify tacit knowledge into explicit rules by giving direction||X||Demsetz, 1991; Grant, 1996|
|Reduce the need for communicating explicit knowledge by introducing organizational routines||X||X||Grant, 1996|
|Enhance shared expectations on behavior by establishing common norms||X||Feldman, 1984|
|Facilitate a sense of commitment and community by developing a shared technical agenda and joint objectives (inclusive a continuous evaluation)||X||X||X||Daniel & Davis, 2009; Eriksson et al., 2009|
|Allow open and flexible participation by creating an operational team structure||X||X||Daniel & Davis, 2009|
|Make every single organization or group involved by distributing leadership roles and responsibilities appropriately||X||X||Daniel & Davis, 2009|
|Provide a deeper perspective of the nature of the problems and contexts in the project by sharing narratives or “war-stories”||X||X||Davis & Walker, 2009|
|Bridge several disciplines or areas of expertise by using boundary-spanning people||X||X||Christensen, 2008; Davis & Walker, 2009|
|Increase the participants' motivation and commitment for collaboration and teamwork by establishing incentives and shared profits||X||X||Bayliss, Cheung, Suen, & Wong, 2004|
|Provide an easier information exchange by establishing a joint project office||X||X||X||Eriksson et al., 2009|
|Establish a compatible blend of skills and personalities by carefully selecting the team composition||X||X||Bennett & Jayes, 1998|
Conclusions and Limitations
The point of departure for this paper was two observations in project-based industries: (1) significant co-production of outputs is needed in order to fulfill customers' increasing demands (e.g., in the construction sector for an integrated construction process in an expanded value chain; and in the high-technology industries for new products and technologies involving knowledge elements from a number of specialists); and (2) even though many companies try to deliver products for their customers through flexible modes of organizing projects, they are not fully capable of facilitating the needed collaboration and knowledge integration and, therefore, experience failures and cost overruns.
A literature review of empirical studies on collaboration and knowledge integration revealed that researchers have identified a number of collaboration antecedents (factors that have proven to have direct effect on the quality of the resulting collaboration). Much has also been written about knowledge integration. Likewise, the outcomes of successful collaboration, that is, project success, potential for learning and innovations, and potential future collaboration, have been well documented. However, the link between the antecedents and outcomes is only vaguely described in the current literature.
The aim of this article has been to conceptualize the link by introducing two new concepts relevant for multi-partner projects: project collaboration quality and knowledge integration capability, and to discuss the role of these concepts in facilitating high-performing collaborations.
Based on a literature study, a conceptual model with 12 relationship hypotheses was offered. Project collaboration quality and knowledge integration capability are seen as collaboration mediators of collaboration outcomes. Five elements of collaboration quality are proposed: communication, coordination, mutual support, aligned efforts, and cohesion. Moreover, the elements were linked to integration mechanisms discussed in the current literature.
A number of limitations of this research can be identified: (1) the model has not been tested yet; (2) the literature on collaboration and knowledge integration is overwhelming, and only a small fraction has been included in this research; (3) variations between industries have not been discussed; and (4) costs and benefits relating to the usage of various integration mechanisms have not been addressed. Nonetheless, the proposed model advances the discussion on high-performing collaborations, offers a model for conceptualizing the links, and provides a starting point for further work in this important area.
Agenda and Future Research
Our research will be continued in a multiple-step process. First of all, we will determine one or more industries and one or more countries in which we will test the model. Secondly, we will operationalize the concepts within the model and the hypotheses. Thirdly, we will determine a relevant sample of companies to participate in a quantitative analysis. Fourthly, we will conduct the quantitative analysis and assess the hypotheses and the links. Fifthly, we will do some in-depth longitudinal case studies on the integration mechanisms. Finally, we will report on our findings in various arenas and publication channels. We welcome further discussion around this area and encourage other researchers to join in as research partners and engage in what we hope will become a high-performing collaboration.
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Explanations for observed relations (H1-H12) in the conceptual model (see Figure 2) and related literature sources
|Explanation of the Relations in the Conceptual Model||Sources|
|H1||Clear defined roles and process for collaboration are positively related to collaboration quality in projects||Pinto et al., 1993; Sicotte et al., 2002; Silén-Lipponen et al., 2002|
|H2||Trust between the actors is positively related to project collaboration quality in projects||Diallo & Thuiller, 2005; Johnson, 1999; Mohr & Spekman, 1994; Paul & McDaniel, 2004; Tjosvold, 1988|
|H3||Physical and cultural proximity in projects is positively related to project collaboration quality in projects||Christensen, 2008; Kahn & McDonough III, 1997; Moodysson & Jonsson, 2007: Pinto et al., 1993; Van den Bulte & Moenart, 1998|
|H4||Alignment of actors' incentives increases the project collaboration quality in projects||Bresnen & Marshall, 2000; Dodgson, 1993; Faerman et al., 2001;|
|H5||Commitment to project task is positively related to collaboration quality in projects||Hoegl et al., 2004; Liedtka & Whitten, 1998; Mohr & Spekman, 1994|
|H6||Congruency of goals and existence of collaborative goals are positively related to collaboration quality in projects||Dodgson, 1993; O'Leary-Kelly et al., 1994; Pinto et al., 1993; Tjosvold, 1988;|
|H7||The resolution of emerging conflicts is positively related to collaboration quality in projects||Duarte & Davies, 2003; Montoya-Weiss, Massey, & Song, 2001; Tjosvold et al., 2003|
|H8||Fulfillment of expectations is positively related to collaboration quality in projects||Hadjikhani, 1996; Walter et al., 2003|
|H9||Project collaboration quality enhances project knowledge integration capability||Brown & Duguid, 2001; Karsten, 2003; Nonaka, 1994|
|H10||Project knowledge integration capability influences project success||Kraut, Egido, & Galagher, 1990; Newell & Huang, 2005; Wellman & Wortley, 1990|
|H11||Project knowledge integration capability increases potential for learning and innovations||Grant, 1996; Kolb, 1984; Mckenzie & van Winkelen, 2004; Newell & Huang, 2005; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995;|
|H12||Project knowledge integration capability increases the possibility of future collaboration||Diallo & Thuiller, 2005; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Sabherwal, 1999|
Perttu Dietrich, PhD, is an Associate Professor in Project Management at the Department of Environmental and Business Economics at the University of Southern Denmark. He has published several peer-reviewed journal articles, books chapters, and conference papers in the field of project management, project portfolio management and program management. His current research interests include knowledge integration and collaboration in multi-partner projects and management of project-based organization. Dr. Dietrich is responsible for several undergraduate and graduate courses in project management and has consulted for various organizations in the project management area.
Pernille Eskerod, PhD, is professor in Project Management at the University of Southern Denmark. She conducts research and teaches within the fields of project management and managing the project-oriented organisation. Prof. Eskerod has published several journal articles, book chapters, and conference papers in the field of project management and managing the project-oriented organisation. Her current research interests include collaboration and coordination in multi-partner projects and project stakeholder management. She is the head of a research group Organization, Innovation and Project Management within Department of Environmental and Business Economics at University of Southern Denmark and the head of a professional master program in project management at University of Southern Denmark. Prof. Eskerod is a board member in the PMUni network. She acts as reviewer at a number of scientific journals. In addition, she is teaching in the professional MBA program in project and process management at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business.
Darren Dalcher, PhD, is Professor of Project Management at Middlesex University and Visiting Professor at the University of Iceland. He is the founder and Director of the National Centre for Project Management. He has been named by the Association for Project Management as one of the top 10 “movers and shapers” in project management and has also been voted Project Magazine's Academic of the Year for his contribution in “integrating and weaving academic work with practice”. Professor Dalcher is active in numerous international committees, steering groups and editorial boards. He is heavily involved in organising international conferences, and has delivered many keynote addresses and tutorials. He has written over 200 papers and book chapters on project management, agile development and software engineering. He is Editor-in-Chief of Software Process Improvement and Practice, and Journal of Software Evolution and Maintenance and editor of the Advances in Project Management and Fundamentals of Project Management book series published by Gower.
Birinder Sandhawalia, PhD, is Researcher at the National Centre for Project Management, Middlesex University. He has published several peer reviewed conference and journal papers on knowledge management and project management. His current research interests include investigating the flow of tacit and explicit knowledge in project-based organisations, knowledge management infrastructure and process capabilities, knowledge integration, and collaboration. Dr Sandhawalia is Contributing Subject Matter Expert for Project Management—A Managerial Approach by Jack R Meredith and Samuel J Mantel, 7th Edition, 2009, and a reviewer for the International Journal of Project Organisation and Management.
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