Cross-Group Flouting and Territory Management: Navigating Cross-Group Terrain in Organizations
CitationKwan, Lisa. 2017. Cross-Group Flouting and Territory Management: Navigating Cross-Group Terrain in Organizations. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe tension for groups in organizations to be both differentiated and integrated with one another has long been recognized in literature. Differentiation allows groups – such as departments, business units and project teams – to specialize and tackle deep problems and subtasks for the organization, while integration unites efforts across groups toward achieving the organization’s purpose. Yet despite decades of research on boundary spanning, intergroup conflict, and facilitating coordination and collaboration between groups, navigating cross-group terrain in organizations remains challenging. In fact, it may have gotten more difficult. Organizations are driven to deepen the expertise within their groups to address increasingly complex and ambiguous problems to remain competitive, while simultaneously demanding greater efficiency from and across their groups to meet stakeholder expectations for increased speed-to-solutions propelled by technology. To integrate each group’s contributions, organizations coax and command their groups to “work better, faster with each other!” – whether through formal mechanisms or informal means. Cross-group collaboration is now considered a determinant of organizational survival in many companies.
Yet the difficulties of navigating cross-group terrain, whether from the perspective of a senior executive, group leader and her members, or organizational scholar remain puzzling. The three essays in this dissertation introduce and illuminate two novel phenomena that together make the case that a dominant focus on integration in organizational behavior thus far may have limited attention to the imperative for groups to remain differentiated. The case is made that ignoring this general differentiation imperative of groups can be counter-effective for our efforts to help groups get along and perform well in organizations.
Chapter 2 introduces the first phenomenon, that of cross-group flouting, which shows how accepted wisdom about one way to encourage cross-group integration can backfire if groups’ natural tendencies to remain differentiated are not adequately considered. This qualitative study captures the bilateral process that arises when a group uses one means of cross-group integration (informal cross-group activities) to bypass another (formal cross-group processes), and the short and long term cross-group consequences that occur. Cross-group flouting is the behavior to circumvent formal cross-group processes, driven by a unilateral focus on one’s group goals.
Chapters 3 and 4 introduce the second phenomenon, group territory management in organizations. Drawing on psychological, group, and organizational literatures, I present a theory in Chapter 3 for why territory management exists among groups in organizations – particularly during organizational change and when organizationally strategic opportunities arise that require cross-group collaboration – the positive functions it serves, how territory management may become escalated and reinforced in organizations, and how this cycle can be weakened if necessary. Chapter 4 presents a qualitative study that maps a framework of the general territory management orientations, forms, and behaviors that surface during intergroup conflict in organizations. This study provides a starting point for future research to develop measures for studying group territory management. It also provides a framework to help organizational leaders better understand and identify if territory management is present during intergroup conflict.
Altogether, this dissertation aims to illuminate the natural imperative of groups in organizations to remain differentiated with one another, while also being called to integrate. It does so by introducing and investigating two novel phenomena, cross-group flouting and group territory management, that I hope can provide generative directions for future researchers to further knowledge on how to help people and groups better navigate cross-group terrain in organizations.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41140200
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