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Is Unit Spanning by Executives Associated with Strategic Change?

38 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2012 Last revised: 7 Nov 2014

Charles Williams

Bocconi University - Department of Management and Technology

Samina Karim

Northeastern University

Date Written: February 2013

Abstract

Firms frequently create executive links between units by transferring or sharing people. Organization theory has emphasized that “boundary-spanning” by people can be a source of innovation and change as these executives combine knowledge from different domains. Within the organization, however, spanning connections also strengthen social ties and cognitive filters that may reduce the possibility of strategic change. Our analysis of executive links in medical firms finds that these links, especially when they occur between the corporate unit and business units, are mostly associated with reduced strategic change through market entry and exit. This finding suggests that the cognitive and social commitments from executive links may undermine the knowledge diffusion expected to arise from connecting separate units of the firm.

Keywords: executive links, corporate office, knowledge recombination, boundary spanning, dynamic capabilities, organizational structure, strategic change, inertia

Suggested Citation

Williams, Charles and Karim, Samina, Is Unit Spanning by Executives Associated with Strategic Change? (February 2013). Boston U. School of Management Research Paper No. 2012-7. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2008247 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2008247

Charles Williams

Bocconi University - Department of Management and Technology ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, MI 20136
Italy

Samina Karim (Contact Author)

Northeastern University ( email )

Boston, MA 02115
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.damore-mckim.northeastern.edu/faculty/k/karim-samina/

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