Call for Papers for a Special Issue Strategic Modularity and the Architecture of the Multinational Firm
Submission Deadline: October 14, 2011
Guest Editors: Gerald McDermott, University of South Carolina
Ram Mudambi, Temple University Ronaldo Parente, Rutgers University-Camden
A consistent trend over the last several decades has been the global disaggregation of the value chain with the consequent increase in the extent and value of transactions across firm boundaries. This has enhanced the importance of managing the firm’s internal and external linkages. Successful management of these interfaces can nurture and sustain open innovation systems, value-enhancing cooperative relationships and organizational learning. In contrast, ineffective management can result in “hollowing out” whereby firm survival is put into question.
Firm architecture may be defined as how decision-making subunits are organized together within the organization (Sah and Stiglitz, 1986). One perspective on firm architecture is that of modularity: by standardizing interfaces between decision-making agents, firms can improve their capabilities in terms of learning and innovation. This is based on the idea that such processes facilitate the implementation of open systems and result in improved communication allowing for superior knowledge transfer and integration. An alternative view is that the standardization inherent in modularity increases the risk that firm’s distinctive capabilities are outsourced. Further, it may reduce the ability of the firm to interact with a diversity of partners and can be especially deleterious if the firm wishes to remain open to new groups, influences and sources of knowledge.
These two contrasting perspectives draw on variety of literatures including social network theory, organizational economics and organizational learning. Analyzing and assessing these perspectives addresses crucial questions in the design and architecture of the firm. The questions raised apply with particular force the multinational enterprise (MNE) that is, by its very nature, a networked firm. The MNE creates and captures value, in the main, through superior architecture, using its network to integrate knowledge from a diversity of agents, organizations and countries. So how do firms learn? The auto industry is just one of several major industry contexts for the study of variation in the diffusion and creation of knowledge and practices. The industry has been educated for over 30 years in the virtues of the Toyota production systems including tiered supplier networks, modularity and lean production. Yet research increasingly suggests that there has been great variation in the implementation of so-called best practices, a lack of modularity and a dysfunctionality of supplier networks. At the same time, we find unexpected roles being played by non-market actors, such as universities, training centers and technology institutes.Some illustrative research themes covered by this special issue are presented below: How does modularity and certification promote learning and knowledge transfer? Under what conditions would firms benefit from combined diffusion of modular designs
and international certification systems (ISO) and when would they not, and why? There is a notion that MNEs can set up high end manufacturing systems virtually anywhere
in the world. What are the conditions for background linkages to provide new knowledge?
What are the avenues for suppliers to gain new knowledge and designs?
How would the degree of standardization of modular systems be measured and how would it affect the optimal architecture of the firm?
Has value chain disaggregation and focus on specialized activities actually simply led to the externalization of costs by the final good producers (like assemblers and brand owners) onto the suppliers?
To what degree and in which ways do we find variation across or within countries in the organizational and institutional constellations that are shaping and governing deverticalization and the new forms of learning? How have inter-firm networks and local institutions adapted to pressures for specialization and knowledge acquisition with the growth of cross-border value chains? Are patterns emerging that appear to offer superior competitive advantages for domestic and foreign firms alike?
Deadlines and Submission Instructions
The deadline for submission of papers is October 14, 2011. More information on the special issue as well as guidelines for authors appear at the GSJ website: http://gsj.strategicmanagement.net/
Papers will be reviewed following the regular Global Strategy Management Journal double-blind review process.
For additional information, please contact of the following special issue editors: - Gerald McDermott, University of South Carolina, [log in to unmask] - Ram Mudambi, Temple University, [log in to unmask] - Ronaldo Parente, Rutgers University-Camden, [log in to unmask] - For questions about submitting to the special issue contact the GSJ managing editor, Lois Gast