Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Norwegian University of Life Sciences, School of Economics and Business

No 04-2016: Operationalizing the concept of conflicting functional demands

Nicolay Worren ()
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Nicolay Worren: School of Economics and Business, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Postal: Norwegian University of Life Sciences, School of Economics and Business, P.O. Box 5003 NMBU, N-1432 Ås, Norway

Abstract: A number of authors have described the challenge of managing organizations that are subject to conflicting functional demands. These authors belong to different sub-disciplines of the field, and have demonstrated that conflicting external demands may result in inconsistent strategies, organizational structures, and management practices. Although the issue is widely recognized, the concept of “conflicting functional demands” has rarely been operationalized. The lack of operationalization complicates the interpretation of existing research. It also leads to weak prescriptions for practice. The question raised in this paper is thus how we may operationalize this concept and assess it empirically. The key proposal is to separate between function and structure (or ends and means) and to define functional conflict as a negative interdependency between a particular function and a structural element (e.g., a management practice or organizational unit). This reconceptualization suggests an alternative manner in which to test dualistic models that contain two opposing factors, such as exploration vs. exploitation, related vs. unrelated diversification, or broad vs. narrow strategy.

Keywords: Organization design [eller organizational design]; functional conflict; construct perationalization

JEL-codes: M10

46 pages, December 13, 2016

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