The Whole is More than the Sum of its Parts - Or is It? A Review of the Empirical Literature on Complementarities in Organizations

41 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2009

See all articles by Edgar Ennen

Edgar Ennen

EBS Universität für Wirtschaft und Recht - EBS Business School - Department of Strategy, Organization & Leadership

Ansgar Richter

University of Liverpool - Management School (ULMS)

Date Written: March 30, 2009

Abstract

The concept of complementarity and its role in the design of organizations has enjoyed increasing attention over the past twenty years. We provide a systematic review of the empirical studies on complementarities in leading journals in management, economics and related disciplines that considers the nature of the factors among which complementarities are found to exist, and the effects of complementarities in organizations. Our findings suggest that complementarities result from the skillful matching of heterogeneous resources which generate positive returns above and beyond the effect of each resource generated on its own. In contrast, the empirical evidence on complementarities between individual organizational and HR practices in firms provides mixed conclusions. We show that complementarities are likely to materialize in complex systems of multiple design elements. Therefore, future research should aim at uncovering complementary effects among multiple elements that capture organizational systems better than a few selected elements only do.

Keywords: Complementarities, Organizational Design

Suggested Citation

Ennen, Edgar and Richter, Ansgar, The Whole is More than the Sum of its Parts - Or is It? A Review of the Empirical Literature on Complementarities in Organizations (March 30, 2009). European Business School Research Paper No. 09-07. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1372348 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1372348

Edgar Ennen (Contact Author)

EBS Universität für Wirtschaft und Recht - EBS Business School - Department of Strategy, Organization & Leadership ( email )

International University Schloss Reichartshausen
Campus Wiesbaden, Soehnleinstrasse 8D
Wiesbaden, 65201
Germany

Ansgar Richter

University of Liverpool - Management School (ULMS) ( email )

Chatham Street
Liverpool, L69 7ZH
United Kingdom
44 [0]151 795 3713 (Phone)
44 [0]151 795 3001 (Fax)

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