Facilitative Boundary Leadership: Enabling Collaboration in Complex, Multi-Organizational Work
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CitationHenry, Erin L. 2015. Facilitative Boundary Leadership: Enabling Collaboration in Complex, Multi-Organizational Work. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractIncreasing complexity, flatter organizational structures and rapidly changing environments require coordination and collaboration with individuals and teams across organizations. As teams navigate these complex organizational dynamics, spanning boundaries between groups is increasingly relevant for knowledge work. The extant literature has directed little attention towards examining how boundary spanning is carried out in complex, multi-organizational settings in which organization, sector and expertise boundaries are crossed during the life cycle of the collaboration. This dissertation develops a deeper understanding of the practices boundary spanners use in facilitating collaboration across diverse actors in multi-organizational work. I introduce and illustrate the phenomenon of facilitative boundary leadership -- defined as fostering teaming across organizational and sectoral boundaries for mutual benefit throughout the lifecycle of a temporary collaboration.
Facilitative boundary leadership includes four components: 1) aligning objectives, which brings together diverse actors for exploratory dialogue and enables all parties to have mutual benefit; 2) curating interactions across boundaries, which promotes understanding and eases tensions; 3) establishing a collaborative structure, which provides ground rules and roles for interactions and work throughout the collaboration lifecycle; and 4) maintaining a neutral stance, which builds trust and allows the boundary spanner to move across levels and boundaries. This dissertation draws on an in-depth field study at a multilateral development organization implementing processes to enhance collaboration with external partners. I show that facilitative boundary leadership provided the relational and structural support for diverse actors from different organizations to collaborate and innovate in complex environments, despite numerous differences among actors. This research contributes to the literatures on boundary spanning, cross-sector collaboration and leadership. In addition, it offers practical implications for understanding and improving the effectiveness of collaboration in complex, multi-organizational contexts.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:17464431
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