Reading summaries - week six, Fall 2017

Class themes this week were external and internal environmental assessments in SP and What is performance management and how does it relate to work organization and job design? in SHRM. The readings for the two classes were quite different this week. SP readings largely focused on community strategic planning, discussing the tactics, strengths, and critiques of that process. SHRM readings included a look at job analysis, a comparison of job design to strategic human resources management, and a fascinating theoretical argument for human capital resource management.

Strategic Planning (SP)

Strategy as performative practice: The case of Sydney 2030, Kornberger and Clegg (2011)

  • This article focuses on the relation between strategy-as-practice and its power effects. The following three interrelated questions guided the enquiry: How is strategy practised? What knowledge is it based upon? And what are its power effects?
  • The article’s theoretical contribution is threefold:
    1. it shows that strategizing is performative, constituting its subjects and shaping its objects
    2. strategizing has to be understood as aesthetic performance whose power resides in the simultaneous representation of facts (traditionally the domain of science) and values (the realm of politics);
    3. strategy is a sociopolitical practice that aims at mobilizing people, marshalling political will and legitimizing decisions.
  • Strategy is understood as an activity, as a verb rather than as a noun.
  • strategizing is inextricably intertwined with the exercise of power
  • concept of performativity offers itself as a useful analytical tool to grasp the relationship between strategizing, discourse and power.
    • talk is action: it constitutes reality.
    • strategizing is an activity that does something.
  • The rise of urban strategizing has to be put into the context of the rise of neoliberally inspired New Public Management (NPM)
    • NPM displays a high level of dependence upon the private sector for guidance, especially in matters of strategy
    • NPM had a performative effect in that it enacted the reality it intended to describe
    • NPM discourse did so as it reimagined the citizen as a citizen-consumer who prefers markets that offer choices, more efficient services and provide better and more transparent ‘public value’
    • discourse of service and choice replaced the messy politics of the public realm
    • Of course, notions are rhetorical devices and there are many differences between groups of citizens. This begs the question whether strategy privileges some and marginalizes others
    • public sector strategy may not be a mere technology but has impacts on the public and how it enacts democracy
    • Strategy communicates not only socially negotiated meanings but also legitimate and illegitimate forms of action and voice
    • strategy is a discursive practice that constitutes a reality (instead of mirroring it), that defines what is meaningful (instead of measuring it) and that legitimizes actions and decisions (instead of rationally analyzing them
  • translation from data to narrative is inevitably a subjective process
  • Through the strategy process, the local council catapulted itself onto the global stage. In this sense, strategy allowed the city to choose the context in which it could construct its own identity relationally
  • The Sydney report introduced economic concerns as key to urban strategy and defined social and cultural areas as functions of economic development
  • concept of the ‘creative city’, which marries economic growth and lifestyle through the cultural economy
  • The perspective placed emphasis on tourism, iconic buildings and spectacular events that turn culture into consumables.
  • Notably, none of the strategies were evaluated in regard to their effectiveness
  • global ideas are not blindly adopted locally; rather, they are translated into local contexts, mixing with other preceding discursive layers
  • First task of strategizing is to render the city visible and provide a representation as the necessary frame. Rather than focusing on the mundane trivialities of city life that some interviewees summarized as the 3 Rs (roads, rates and rubbish), Sydney 2030 addressed what was referred to as ‘big picture issues’
  • emphasis on ‘strategic’ implicitly indexed a holistic and lateral approach, ignoring established boundaries of power. Strategy extended the space that was previously defined as local to a global level
  • From the beginning, the assumed polyphony of a multidisciplinary discourse gave way to a discursive regime in which economic concerns became the dominant framing device. “Economy is number one, environment comes in number two; that’s just the way it is”
  • The economy became the dominant language game that disciplined the city. Its discourse provided the diction in which other perspectives had to formulate their concerns.
  • Moreover, non-economic concerns were defined as a function of economic growth
  • Projects that could not be formulated in the language of economic cost-benefit analysis were hard to articulate and legitimize
  • The discussion around Sydney’s indigenous heritage presented another stark example. The way the strategy approached the complex issue of Sydney’s indigenous past was through ‘celebrating the indigenous history,’ an approach which hardly represented the concerns of the local population. ‘Cultural experience’ could easily be legitimized in economic terms; issues that could not be framed in economic terms did not find their way into the strategy.
  • Arguably, the limits of the economist’s language were the limits of Sydney 2030
  • Strategy is a transformative process which does not so much describe the future as cause this future to come into existence through its process
  • strategy is a process that, if managed well, justifies its results.
  • The actual labor of strategy consisted of orchestrating the process through which people could be mobilized and ideas could be legitimized
  • The massive consultation program aimed at transforming people’s understanding of the city. The consultation did not so much result in ideas but added legitimacy to the process.
  • the strategy process was less about discovering problems or innovative solutions and more about guiding people’s perception through a carefully orchestrated process of communication to arrive at a particular interpretation of issues and the (preconceived) solutions to resolve them
  • While people were invited to speak their minds, they were simultaneously instructed to voice them at a certain level. To be ‘strategic’ became a powerful signifier that structured interaction. The label ‘strategic’ was reserved for the big picture issues and for those who lifted their perspectives away from the politics of the here-and-now towards 2030.
  • Through this operation, strategy depoliticized the present.
  • Clearly, the strategy process added a layer of legitimacy to the city’s ideas that other forms of democracy (notably elections) could not provide. It is in this sense that strategy constructed a body politic – a new form of unity that fashioned the administration with new powers
  • The strategy process simultaneously constituted a community and made claim to represent the voice of that community.
  • strategy represented a new way of articulating political will.
  • the report claimed that developers and residents, the indigenous population and the tourism industry all shared one vision, imagining the same future for the city. The political differences disappeared as Sydney 2030 celebrated its engineered consensus as profound discovery.
  • While strategy worked to make people ‘lift their thinking’ and translate the cacophony of their voices into homogeneous political will, it silenced others
  • By keeping interest groups separate, the strategists could determine how much debate was allowed in each forum
  • Division kept those in power safe from dynamics ‘that might ruin the dialogue’
  • discourse of 2030 was reduced to ‘safe issues’
  • potentially contentious issues were kept from the agenda of the public discourse
  • decisions were cast as ‘expert decisions’. power was being exercised through the rationality of the expert, even if this was not acknowledged as such
  • In this sense, the strategist not only exercised power through decision-making but also through non-decision-making
  • fundamentally aesthetic character of strategy
  • a key performance indicator for the strategy project was media attention, counted in inches, columns and airtime, over the duration of the project.
  • A mixture of design techniques including collages, retouched photography and sketches illustrating the city’s potential futures provided the appealing imagery for the strategists’ storytelling.
  • In communicating its propositions, strategy did not engage in wordy discussions or technical descriptions; rather, its aesthetics spoke through iconic imagery
  • ‘in the end people are allowing us to get away with not giving them detail because we’re painting it as a vision’
  • Strategy, it seems, thrives on the dual aesthetics of the poetry of the image and the prose of numbers
  • Drawing on our narrative, the performative power effects of strategizing can be analysed from three vantage points
    1. strategy’s performative power explicitly constituted its subjects as one body politic.
    2. strategy’s performative powers constituted the city as a spatial object
    3. strategy’s use of time had performative power effects.
  • Strategy’s performative effects are based on its representations. Images, models, speeches and drawings, including the big picture, do not convince through logic but seduce through aesthetics.
  • most important political problem is to get people to answer questions that they would not pose themselves
  • Sydney 2030 provided a new way of producing such questions and answers, and forced people to think in abstract terms.
  • strategy elicited answers from the public that see it responding to a future hardly imaginable
  • Strategy, it seems, produces answers to political questions and legitimizes action while providing those in power with the freedom to conduct the business of framing the conversations backstage, unseen by, and unaccountable to, the public.
  • In short, the problem is that science lacks legitimacy, while democracy’s deficit results from its ignorance.
  • The use of strategy dissolved the problem of extension and legitimacy by reframing the conversation between the expert and the public. Sydney 2030 arranged the voices of the experts and the public so that the former would contribute authority and the latter legitimacy
  • strategizing is performative and has to be understood as an aesthetic performance, strategy is a sociopolitical practice
  • Practically, there are five lessons we can learn from our contextual account of Sydney 2030.
    1. strategizing and organizing are complementary practices
    2. strategizing means problematizing futures
    3. strategizing is genealogical
    4. strategizing entails experimenting and learning
    5. strategy is mediation

From plan to reality: Implementing a community vision in Jackson Square, Boston, Molina Costa (2014)

  • Research on collaborative planning has mainly focused on visioning stage. This paper explores the challenges and opportunities facing implementation of collaborative neighborhood redevelopment
  • Neoliberalism is characterized by market rule, privatization, capital mobility, interlocal competition, and the state’s retrenchment from redistributive goals
  • One of the main consequences of this change in urban governance has been the downsizing of the local state, mainly through the privatization of planning and service delivery to a decentralized network of private actors and nonprofit organizations
  • Government’s retreat from direct involvement in urban issues from the 1980s spurred the consolidation and expansion of Community Development Corporations (CDCs) into affordable housing development
  • Collaborative planning has been questioned since the late 1990s. Critics have argued that assuming that people from very different backgrounds and resources representing diverse and even competing interests can reach consensus over planning decisions ignores the structural inequalities generated by neoliberal political economy
  • Collaborative planning entails the risk of contributing to hiding power dynamics by neutralizing them
  • approach seems to rely too heavily on process, paying little attention to outcomes and specific policy values
  • Further, critics argue that community-based organizations are being co-opted to advance neoliberal urban policy disguised in discourses of civic participation
  • CDCs operate within the existing real-estate framework without opposing it, and even work with the corporate sector
  • After years of planning and community input of priorities, the project underwent significant changes that distorted the vision outlined by the community. However, the community did not further mobilize in support of their vision
  • The visioning process was highly inclusive and democratic, yet the implementation of the plan is facing many hardships
  • Producing a community vision is a challenging task, yet putting it into practice can be even harder.
  • structural economic factors got to determine the outcome of the project, overriding decisions made by the community, while the state did not step in to support the development as it had been envisioned by the community
  • It is to be questioned to what extent the community was realistic about the kind of development they asked for, given the market-driven redevelopment context in which they had to operate
  • Financial feasibility is not usually addressed during community visioning processes. This hampers the implementation phase, leading developers – even community-based ones – to take unilateral decisions that may substantially modify the community plan.
  • underlying problem is that most collaborative planning processes do not properly address issues of capital and class relations, even if they include equity as one of its goals.
  • Fully acknowledging the limitations of this model is the first step to search for alternatives. Recommendations for future work:
    1. vital to address financial feasibility during the visioning phases of collaborative planning processes
    2. necessary to systematically evaluate the actual implementation of the plans resulting from collaborative processes
    3. governance design of such processes should include the implementation phase
    4. most importantly, it is necessary to critically assess the consequences that responsibilization is having on the collaborative planning model
    5. the government could be re-engaged in a redistributive role in order to provide support for community-based efforts

User’s Guide: How to Hold a Strategic Conversation, Schwarz (1991)

  • strategic conversations will be much more fruitful when built around the scenario method, which systematically raises people’s understandings of their environment and each other
  • Here is a set of precepts to serve as a rough guide. The key here is to recognize that it is not always necessary to add new dimensions to the formal planning processes. Often it is a matter of using the ones that already exist far more effectively.
  1. Create a hospitable climate
    • Start by doing what you can to make your organizational culture welcome diverse points of view
    • No one should be penalized for raising questions or ideas
    • Allow fierce give and take
    • Consider every point people make
  2. Establish an Initial Group Including Key Decision Makers and Outsiders
    • Group should include most key decision makers
    • Senior decision makers presence at the conversations is vital
    • Deliberately seek out other group members from a variety of backgrounds
    • A strategic conversation might involve as few as fifteen people and as many as thirty
  3. Include Outside Information and Outside People
    • A purely internal conversation will rarely be able to achieve breakthrough thinking
    • expand the range of information you take in
  4. Look far ahead in advance of decisions
    • Introducing new perspectives at the moment of decision, when an organization is confronted with the need to act, will inevitably be inadequate
    • well-designed strategic conversations occur long before the moment of decision
    • not oriented to crises, but to the ongoing affairs
    • A strategic conversation can instill a learning orientation within the company
    • Alternatives take shape in managers’ minds long before the appearance of short-term factors that make reflection more difficult.
    • A typical strategic conversation might take place over three to nine months, with sessions every few weeks or so for a half day at a time.
    • they do not necessarily fit the formal planning schedule
    • The only requirement is a basic core of members that remains the same, so that the group can build upon its continued experience
  5. Begin by Looking at the Present and Past
    • Before you can look ahead through scenarios, you need to understand your organization as it has acted in the past, and your environment as it exists in the present.
  6. Conduct Preliminary Scenario Work in Smaller Groups
    • A large meeting involving all the key players is the best way of starting-and continuing-a strategic conversation
    • subgroups of that meeting are the most effective way to study individual issues in depth
    • These smaller conversations are particularly effective because the scenario process feeds both diversity and consensus
  7. Playing out the conversation
    • Now you can ask, “What are we going to do as an organization?”
    • You are no longer trapped in the paradigms of conventional wisdom.
    • You can more easily distinguish evanescent trends from deeper structural changes
    • Various hypotheses will be raised-not answers
  8. Living in a Permanent Strategic Conversation
    • the strategic conversation never ends, it just moves into different venues and becomes a model for discourse.
    • Along the way other habits change
    • Informal, unstructured material becomes part of the context of more established conversations as well
    • Group members start putting their experiences into the framework of their collaborative dialogue
    • Now they’re ready to make serious decisions and feel relatively confident about them.

Implementing a community-wide strategic plan, Wheeland (2003)

  • Rock Hill achieved five significant results by 2000:
    1. managing uncertainty
    2. resolving conflict
    3. continuing citizen participation
    4. achieving tangible and intangible results
    5. establishing a governance network for the duration of the planning period
  • Rock Hill achieved these results because of:
    1. the competent practice of community-wide strategic planning
    2. visionary leadership
    3. the commitment of public leadership to the process and the plan
  • Rock Hill achieved some of the significant results promised by advocates of community-wide strategic planning. The lessons learned from Rock Hill’s experience can provide guidance to other communities
  • The content of ETV’s plan included an emphasis on public art, historic preservation, gardens, greenways, cultural events, business park development, housing, infrastructure improvements, and downtown office development.
  • In my study of Rock Hill’s planning process, a city that had overcome the barriers to success and provided an example of how community-wide strategic planning could be used to develop a 10-year plan
  • Success defined as achieving the following five results:
    1. effective management of uncertainty
    2. resolution of conflict
    3. continued participation of citizens
    4. achievement of tangible and intangible results
    5. establishment of a governance network
  • As a form of collaboration, differences over goals and means that surface in a community-wide strategic planning initiative are resolved preferably through consensus building
  • A successful community-wide strategic planning initiative, from the start of the planning process through efforts to update the plan, should achieve a broad and deep participatory structure
  • Three types of representation are especially important:
    1. geographic (all neighborhoods in the community)
    2. demographic (different racial, ethnic, and economic identities)
    3. political (different political parties and interests)
  • As a form of collaboration, community-wide strategic planning can help overcome intangible problems, because it uses a wide range of participation and information-sharing practices
  • Skillful use of community-wide strategic planning can enhance the capacity of communities to act to solve problems and generally enhance the civic infrastructure
    • civic infrastructure as the “formal and informal processes and networks through which communities make decisions and attempt to solve problems” - similar in concept to a governance network
  • a key to successful implementation is linking the strategic plan to the organizations’ policy-making processes, especially budgeting

Strategic Human Resources Management (SHRM)

Job Analysis, Pynes (2009)

  • A job analysis is a systematic process of collecting data for determining the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOCs)
  • analysis identifies a job’s activities, behaviors, tasks, and performance standards
  • Strategic job analyses are integral to strategic human resources management (SHRM) planning.
  • Job analyses provide the foundation of most human resource management activities:
    • Recruitment and selection
    • Developing compensation systems
    • Human resources planning, career development, and training.
    • Performance evaluation
    • Risk management
    • Job design
  • The most common reasons for conducting a job analysis are to gather information so that a job description can be written, job specifications can be identified, and the job can be placed within a job family classification
  • Common methods of job analysis data collection:
    • interview
    • questionnaire
    • structured checklist
    • observation
    • diary or log
    • combination of all methods
  • A consideration is that employees may be sensitive to some of the purposes behind the job analysis, and are likely to emphasize different information depending on the purpose of the analysis
  • analyst should work with representatives of the organization to determine the most effective method
  • Advances in information technology have changed organizations. Positions are being redefined, organizations have become less hierarchical, positions have become more flexible. Today many employees are expected to define their own work and expected to perform a variety of complex tasks that go beyond formal job description
  • if agencies want to prepare for future changes, they must integrate into the job analysis strategic issues that may affect jobs in the future.
  • Sanchez and Levine (1999) use the term work analysis instead of job analysis. The analysis of work should serve to propel the change process, whereas the word job serves to define job boundaries and make them rigid.
  • Tasks have been replaced by cross-functional responsibilities. Changing responsibilities require employee flexibility
  • needs to be a system of continuous work analysis
  • Managing the emotional aspects of work, such as displaying sensitivity to culturally different individuals, is important. Emotional stability and other personality attributes have received little attention in conventional job analysis
  • Organizations may also want to focus on the level of general characteristics important for success in the organization’s culture and for dealing with change. Focus could be on general categories of competencies important for success, such as adaptabiity self-motivation, and trainability
  • Competency modeling is a method of collecting and organizing job information and worker attributes into broad competencies. Competency model is a set of competencies that are necessary for effective performance and they typically cover a broader range of jobs than traditional job analysis
  • Bartram (2005) identified eight competencies for managerial positions:
    • Leading and deciding
    • Supporting and cooperating
    • Interacting and presenting
    • Analyzing and interpreting
    • Creating and conceptualizing
    • Organizing and executing
    • Adapting and coping
    • Enterprising and performing
  • Job analyses rarely recognize alternative ways to do the job or qualify for it
  • Job analysis is typically descriptive, not prescriptive
  • No one method of job analysis is clearly superior to another
  • purpose is not likely to be optimally met by any one method or if one uses any method or set of methods uncritically.

SHRM and job design: Narrowing the divide, Becker & Huselid (2010)

  • literatures in strategic human resources management (SHRM) and job design have remarkably little in common.
  • SHRM literature focuses on HR systems as sources of competitive advantage, and employees as strategic assets. Job design literature is largely micro and focuses on the nature and structure of work itself
  • While acknowledging the remarkable contributions of the field, there are increasing calls to broaden the focus of job design in response to the changing environment.
  • There are several opportunities where these two fields of study can inform each other
  • Both literatures have a strong focus on performance, but the level of analysis is different.
  • the strategic focus of SHRM means there is much more attention to business and strategic level outcomes
  • system of HR practices is sometimes called a high performance work system (HPWS) because it emphasizes those dimensions of HR practices thought to influence workforce performance
  • The current empirical specifications are limited, “a few sizes fit all”
  • a new direction for SHRM would focus on the strategic job
  • Strategic jobs make a disproportionate contribution to the effective implementation of a strategic capability
  • Strategic jobs can appear at any level in the organization but all share three common characteristics:
    1. rarity (generally less than 15% of the org’s jobs)
    2. strategic impact (directly affect org’s ability to execute strategy through strategic capability)
    3. incumbent performance variability (the gap between high and low employee performance)
  • “the ability to implement strategies is, by itself, a resource that can be a source of competitive advantage.”
  • emphasis on differentiation is driven by the strategic imperative to focus on building a competitive advantage
  • opportunities for two literatures to benefit from each other: job design could extend their work to what might be termed “strategic job design.” SHRM could strengthen both our theoretical and empirical work
  • The difference between strategic jobs and non-strategic jobs in part reflects the difference between strategic success and operational excellence. Just because a decision saves a company money, or even increases revenue, does not make it strategic
  • While the job design literature certainly includes performance outcomes as part of its focus, high performance work systems have performance as their primary focus
  • The SHRM literature certainly highlights the role of job performance as an influence on the ultimate strategic success of the organization, but more importantly makes the point that not all job performance has strategic value.
  • Job design needs to adopt a strategic perspective on the field. It requires a meaningful commitment to interdisciplinary models that can challenge our own disciplinary comfort levels
  • What’s important is the alignment between those job design attributes and the idiosyncratic requirements of the organization’s strategic capabilities
  • What’s missing is a theoretical logic that links job design to the kinds of strategic outcomes that are the focus of the SHRM literature. In part needs to incorporate elements of job design into systems framework. Needs to be a strong emphasis on performance, both at the individual and organizational level.
  • Instead of the job, it is the flow of work through a network that is the unit of analysis. Would SHRM be better served by thinking in terms of strategic networks instead of strategic jobs?
  • In particular what elements of job design, if any, are critical to the success of those strategic jobs, or networks?
  • a focus on strategic networks also raises important questions about the nature of the employment relationship itself
  • Whether comparing them within or across organizations, they vary by traditional job level and characteristics. They are considered strategic because the value creation process in their organization relies disproportionately on their contribution
  • The job design literature could make a significant contribution to the SHRM literature by simply extending extant job design models to the context of strategic and non-strategic jobs

Human Capital Is Dead; Long Live Human Capital Resources!, Ployhart et al (2014)

This article was a challenging read. In examining theories across disciplines to posit a new theory on human capital resource management it gets deep into the academic weeds, but ultimately put forth an intriguing theory that competitive advantage occurs because of the complex combination of firm-specific resource combinations. Having built my career in small staff nonprofit organizations, this theory resonates with me. I’ve experienced how the interplay of everyone’s unique talents can gel in the context of a twelve or twenty-four staff organization, and this theory shines some light on that hard to describe dynamic.

  • The lack of consensus about what human capital resources are creates roadblocks for integrating perspectives across disciplines
  • The authors seek to redefine human capital resources by proposing a unifying framework
  • By integrating microfoundations perspectives they show that there are multiple theoretically distinct human capital resource combinations and that unit-level resources and their combinations may be different from the individual level
  • Resource combination framework shows how prior research has unnecessarily limited its conceptualization of human capital resources and how a broader view based on microfoundations opens several radically new research direction
  • KSAOs = knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics
  • This approach both bounds and expands the domain of human capital resources by showing that while only a subset of KSAOs comprise human capital resources, multiple types of human capital resources may emerge from these KSAOs
  • The multilevel and microfoundational framework of human capital resources developed here is based on work spanning economics, strategy, HR, and psychology
  • human capital resources decomposed into three elements:
    • structure (what human capital resources “are”; their latent content
    • function (what human capital resources “do”; their consequences)
    • level at which they exist
  • Human capital resources are individual or unit-level capacities based on individual KSAOs that are accessible for unit-relevant purposes. This definition, although perhaps radical for some, is a necessary step toward construct clarity
  • there are critical distinctions between individual differences, KSAOs, human capital, human capital resources, and strategic human capital resources
  • not all individual differences are KSAOs. attitudes, satisfaction, motivation, emotion, and related characteristics are not KSAOs
  • KSAOs are not human capital. human capital is a subset of those individuals’ KSAOs that are relevant for achieving economic outcomes.
  • human capital resources and human capital are two terms often inappropriately used interchangeably. The boundary condition that distinguishes human capital from human capital resources is that human capital resources must be accessible for unit-relevant purpose.
  • units can have many different types of human capital resources stemming from both the variety of individual capacities and the many ways in which these individual capacities combine to form unit-level capacities
  • the nature of interactions between people and corresponding task demands may result in the combination of these individual KSAOs into new, distinct, collective human capital resources that may bear little resemblance to their individual-level origins
  • Recognizing the importance of competitive advantage to strategy theory, our framework differentiates between performance in general (that results in competitive parity) and the subset of supranormal performance indicative of competitive advantage
  • our framework includes strategic human capital resources as an important category but also recognizes the role of nonstrategic human capital resources— those critical for delivering performance leading to competitive parity, but not competitive advantage
  • Like the classic tension between collectives and individuals in the social sciences, a human capital resource framework must recognize the existence of resources across multiple levels. 2011). For present purposes we focus on two levels, the individual and the unit (or collective) level, because these capture the “endpoints” for most human capital resource scholarship.
  • The proposed human capital resource framework is based on the integration of theories of resources from multiple disciplines and levels and has four major implications
    • only those KSAOs that are accessible and relevant for the purposes of a unit are human capital resources
    • human capital resources exist at multiple levels, but these resources always originate from the KSAOs of individuals
    • individuals simultaneously contain a multitude of cognitive and noncognitive KSAOs
    • multiple types of human capital resources may exist at individual and collective levels
  • the predominant focus on a single human capital resource is inappropriately narrow.
  • Very few studies examined multiple KSAO types that compose a single human capital resource, and even fewer studies considered multiple human capital resources
  • In contrast, we draw on insights from the definitional framework and the microfoundations literature to argue for the study of human capital resource combinations
  • combinations of human capital resources are likely to be more valuable, rare, and inimitable and thus are more likely to generate sustainable value
  • human capital resource combinations are essentially “complex resources,” while single or stand-alone resources are essentially “commodity resources”
  • Commodity resources are relatively homogeneous with reasonably well-defined and efficient factor markets. In contrast, complex resources are more heterogeneous, are based on combinations of commodity resources, and do not have well-defined markets.
  • combinations can occur either at the same level or at different levels
  • complementarity = the beneficial interplay of the elements of a system where the presence of one element increases the value of others
  • emergence = theoretical explanation for aggregation: a process that unfolds over time, is shaped simultaneously by contextual and individual factors, and ultimately occurs through interaction and interdependence
  • Complementarities and emergence should be viewed as related processes underlying human capital resource combinations. Complementary combinations may occur within or across levels, whereas emergence only refers to cross-level combinations.
  • human capital resources based on interactive or causal complementarities have greater opportunities for enhancing performance and generating competitive advantage than resources in isolation
  • the more connections between resources, the less likely there is a corresponding strategic factor market for the combination
  • The locus of human capital resource-based competitive advantage in complementarity combinations is not the type of resource but rather their interrelationships.
  • The same set of individual-level KSAOs may create different types of human capital resources if the nature of interdependence requires members to interact in different ways or with different members. The nature of the relationships and interactions between people is necessary to understand how a set of individual-level KSAOs leads to collective human capital resource combinations.
  • Relationships thus shape the nature of human capital resource emergence and, consequently, the types of human capital resource combinations. Yet context shapes the nature of these relationships.
  • Human capital resources based on emergence processes have greater opportunities for enhancing performance and generating competitive advantage than their lower level origins.
  • The locus of human capital resource–based competitive advantage in emergence combinations is not the type of resource but the aggregation process.
  • human capital resources are distinct from human capital. There is a difference between strategic human capital resources that are relevant for competitive advantage and human capital resources that can be beneficial for unit performance at all levels.
  • The locus of strategic human capital resource–based competitive advantage is not the content of the resources but the degree to which they are interconnected
  • Interconnections among resources make the resources immobile and difficult to imitate
  • Interconnections increase the social complexity, causal ambiguity, and path dependency of strategic human capital resources
  • interdependence theory shifts the focus from the individual to the relationships and interdependences among people
  • situation is crucial in this model; it dictates not only the nature of the interdependencies but also which KSAOs are relevant
  • Employee mobility suggests that collective human capital resources can change dramatically even with modest changes in unit membership and even when the KSAOs of those members who remain or leave do not themselves change
  • strategic human capital resource combinations represent complex resources while the lower level resources represent commodity resources
  • A particularly controversial prediction resulting from this definitional framework is that there are no well-defined or efficient factor markets for human capital resource combinations.
  • if all human capital resources originate in KSAOs, and all collective human capital resources are based on aggregations of individual KSAOs, then the most radical prediction is that there is no factor market for unit-level human capital resources!
Written on October 9, 2017