Network Organization Pitfalls and Success Factors for Team and Organizational Processes. Analyses of Key Organizational Variables and Cultural Differences in International Military Contexts
Appears in the following Collection
- Psykologisk institutt 
AbstractThis dissertation investigates effects of network organization in military organizations. The last decades’ changes in the tasks and responsibilities of military organizations have prompted a need for organizational change. Military theorists have fronted network organization as the solution, thus making military teams and organizations both currently relevant and appropriate cases for the focus of this research. Network organization would imply changes to central organizational variables, like structure and processes, as well as increased ad hoc distributed and multinational collaboration. The presented research explores issues related to the effects of such changes on flexibility, effectiveness, trust, and team processes, as well as on issues related to culture and the measurement of individualism/collectivism in military samples. To this end, data were collected through an experimental series and at three different multinational military exercises. The experimental series was conducted in a lab environment using a web-based gaming tool adapted for the study of distributed team collaboration. This technique represents a new approach to studying international team-work and collaboration, cultural differences, and trust. Methods of direct observation, observer ratings, and self-report questionnaires were employed. The results from this work have been reported in four articles, which are cited in the second half of this dissertation.
The first article (I) investigates organizational structure and processes as antecedents of organizational flexibility in military contexts, and also explores possible moderator effects of power distance and cultural diversity. To this end, both self-report and experimental data were collected from three military exercise organizations and one series of laboratory experiments. The data from each of these studies were analyzed both separately and collapsed across studies. When all data were analyzed together, significant relations between decentralized processes and flexibility and between flat structure and flexibility were observed. No moderator effects were found. Moreover, the analyses revealed that decentralized processes were the most consistent predictor of organizational flexibility across each of the four studies.
The second article (II) furthers the research in article I and explores the consequences of flat structure, decentralizing processes, and alignment (i.e., of structure and processes) for the effectiveness (measured by information sharing, decision making, and organizational rating) of military organizations. To this end, self-report data were collected in three different military exercise organizations. The results indicated that flat structure and decentralized processes both predict organizational effectiveness, with almost full mediation by flexibility. Because structures and processes were found to be well aligned in the organizations studied, the results could not reveal the effects of misalignment, suggesting that further research would be needed to establish this. The results reported in the two first articles imply that changes toward flatter and more decentralized organizational solutions may yield both more flexibility and more efficient organizational processes.
The consequences of multinational distributed ad hoc team collaboration are examined in article III. Moreover, this article explores trust as a mediator, explaining how cultural diversity may affect team processes and outcomes in distributed ad hoc teams. To this end, data were collected through both self-report and direct behavioral measures from a series of laboratory experiments. The results demonstrated significantly lower trust in culturally heterogeneous teams than in homogenous teams, which confirms earlier research that found that diversity can make it more difficult to build trust. In turn, trust was found to be positively related to team processes (i.e., communication), whilst performance was not significantly predicted. The results suggested that trust will add explanatory value as a mediator in future team composition research and further implied that multinational ad hoc distributed teams may not be optimal, indicating a need for the allocation of time to build trust in culturally diverse teams.
Article IV focuses on the cultural dimension of individualism/collectivism (I/C). This dimension may indicate differences in the potential for increased collaboration, as described in network organization theories. The article examines whether Hofstede’s Values Survey Module VSM-94 survey tool can be gainfully employed to measure I/C in an international military sample, namely, by predicting I/C-type behavior in national and multinational teams. An experimental design was adopted, employing both self-report and direct behavioral measures and including participants from five countries. The results did not reveal any systematic differences between individualists and collectivists in culturally diverse contexts. The results further indicated that the VSM-94 did not predict I/C behaviors in the military sample. However, the I/C behaviors were better predicted by the scores from Hofstede’s original research, suggesting that the between-country differences in I/C are no different in military than in civilian populations. These results contradict previous interpretations of I/C measurements using the VSM in military samples, where the opinion has been that military personnel have different values compared with the civilian population. Our findings instead called into question the appropriateness of the VSM for measuring I/C in samples such as the military. The results further suggested a re-examination of other research that has proposed within-culture subgroup variability in I/C based on self-report measures only.
List of articles. Article IV is removed from the thesis due to publisher restrictions.
Article I. Bjørnstad, A. L., & Lichacz, F. M. J. (2013). Organizational flexibility from a network organizational perspective: A study of central predictors and moderating factors in military contexts. Leadership and Organization Development Journal Vol. 34 Iss: 8, pp.763 - 783. doi:10.1108/LODJ-02-2012-0021 This article is (c) Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here duo.uio.no. Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Article II: Bjørnstad, A. L. (2011). Exploring network organization in military contexts: Effects of flatter structure and more decentralized processes. Military Psychology, 23 (3), 315-331. doi:10.1080/08995605.2011.570595 This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record. Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Article III: Bjørnstad, A. L., Fostervold, K. I., & Ulleberg, P. (2011). Effects of cultural diversity on trust and its consequences for team processes and outcomes in ad hoc distributed teams. Scandinavian Journal of Organizational Psychology, 3 (2), 3-15.
Article IV: Bjørnstad, A. L., & Ulleberg, P. (submitted). A multi-method study of cultural values and behavior: Does Hofstede’s individualism/collectivism measure predict team type behavior in an international military experimental setting?