University of Oulu

Not a perbetuum mobile : leadership logic and support systems of expertise in global virtual organizations

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Author: Alaniemi, Jenni1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Oulu Business School, Department of Management and International Business, International Business
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : J. Alaniemi, 2015
Publish Date: 2015-05-25
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Mainela, Tuija
Reviewer: Lämsä, Tuija
Mainela, Tuija
During the past decade traditional hierarchical organizations have been replaced by more permeable, flexible and even born-global virtual organizations. Virtual working arrangements increase flexibility, customer responsiveness and intelligence, productivity, collaboration possibilities, and lowers bureaucracy and costs. It also responds to the needs of the turbulent, uncertain and complex business environment. Often it seems as if virtual organizations should be under constant transformation without hierarchical decelerating organizational structures. However, it has been recognized that also virtual organizations require specific type of organization form and leadership logic to be able to function. They need to find the right degree of centralization and for that carefully choose the right organizational design. One form of virtual organizations is knowledge intensive virtual consultancy companies, which sell the expertise of their employees. In this study the focus is on more recent virtual consultancy company types that utilize the idea of ‘expertise-on-demand’, which means that customers approach these virtual consultancy companies with a problem, which will then be solved by a group of professionals invited especially to find solutions for the particular case. From the experts’ point of view offering solutions does not necessarily mean received compensation if the solution is not leading to a business transaction which is why this business model is often called ‘pay-for-performance’. For that reason this study focuses on finding out the balance between flexibility versus structure in virtual setting among knowledge workers. In other words how to manage ‘without managing’ a company ‘without walls’ in order to ensure innovative, efficient and productive knowledge flow that should at the same time inspire the experts to contribute and tempt customers to obtain the service? Based on the identified research gap the main research question is: how to commit and increase the activity level of global virtual experts in a loosely coupled work relationship? This research question is answered with the help of the following sub questions: what kind of organizational support systems benefit virtual knowledge work and what kind of leadership logic benefits virtual knowledge work? The research is a case-study driven however applicable to any field of virtual knowledge work. The aim of the study is to increase the level of understanding and describe the phenomenon of virtual knowledge intensive organizing in the present day business world from expert point of view. The study will be carried out by following qualitative research practices and narrative methodology. Through narrative research one is able to gain access to deeper organizational realities strongly linked to their narrators’ experiences. The empirical data was collected from three experts working in the field of virtual knowledge work. Based on the main findings of the study a virtual knowledge intensive organization needs both certain type of leadership logic and organizational support systems to be able to commit and increase the level of activity of its experts. In relations to both leadership logics and organizational support systems, experts need specific talent management practices to be implemented as well. Leadership logics beneficial for virtual knowledge-intensive companies in pay-for-performance setting underline the attitude of breaking away from traditional leadership and management logics by approaching it both holistically from network perspective and from the point of view of complexity management. Leadership in virtual setting should focus on relational processes such as trust and coherence formation and in creating shared vision, motivation and goals. The organizational support systems benefitting virtual knowledge work are functional processes (skill management and task design), communicational processes (dialog, norms of communication) and specific structural factors (technology support systems and confidentiality, performance monitoring and reward systems). There is a clear need for a facilitator, who functions as a catalyst both in activating the task procedures at hand as well as monitoring the communicational processes and norms of communication. The talent management of experts is based on implemented knowledge management practices and persuasive user design methods.
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Copyright information: © Jenni Alaniemi, 2015. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.