Discuss Role of theory in management research
The general topic within the field of business management that I have selected for academic research involves the examination of the natural gas supply chain that exists within the Southern Caribbean. Presently, this industry can be described as existing almost exclusively in my country of Trinidad and Tobago and is centred around the production of natural gas for domestic manufacturing and energy uses as well as to produce Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) for export internationally to markets in South America, Asia and the US. Mutual benefits exist for the development of an intra-Caribbean trade in natural gas with our neighbouring countries. This has wider implications for efforts at decarbonising the Caribbean’s energy consumption, improving energy security and reducing the cost of energy imports for the vulnerable economies that exist in this region.
In further refining the topic for specific research, I intend to focus on the concept of Strategic Alliances and Collaboration within the industry. The relevance of this issue to the overall topic of interest rests in the opinion that successfully developing such a highly specialized supply chain within the Caribbean necessitates the formation and commercial exploitation of strong strategic alliances.
At its core a theory “is a statement of concepts and their interrelationships that shows how and/or why a phenomenon occurs (Gioia and Pitre cited in Corley and Gioia, 2011, p. 12). Further, it has been described as a means of explaining identified phenomenon which relies on systematic observation that allows for testing and theory modification based on the outcome of such testing (Stewart, Harte and Sambrooke, 2010, p. 223).
In undertaking an analysis of the role of strategic alliances in the industry I have identified the following as two potential theoretical frameworks or ‘lenses’, through which the observations may be further developed:
This will provide a more robust theoretical framework for examining the discipline of Strategic Supply Chain Management which itself has been described as a developing field of practice and emergent academic field (Storey et al, 2006, p. 755) and not yet considered a unifying theory (Cousins, Lawson and Squire, 2006, p. 701).
According to Williamson et al (2011, p. 1), Strategic Management is critical to plotting the destiny of organizations and addresses its competitive posture, the deployment of resources and meeting the demands of stakeholders. The examination of strategic partnerships can be seen to address these core areas and is identified by Storey et al (2006, p. 756) as merging “imperceptibly with strategic management literature.”
Within the framework of Strategic Management a number of empirical examples have been identified as organizations which have developed their respective supply chains as effective competitive weapons. These include Walmart, Zara, Toyota and Dell (Hult, Ketchen and Arrfelt, 2007, p. 1036).
The Resource Based View (RBV)
Classical Resource theory emphasises resources specific to an organization as tools that provide long term competitive advantage and superior performance. These have been described by some authors as “unique resources” (Costa, Cool and Dierickx, 2013, p.445). Other writers have proposed the need to incorporate the unique resources that may reside beyond the level of the firm into any analysis of unique assets (Barney and Mackey, 2005, cited in Hult, Ketchen and Arrfelt, 2007, p.1037). In this respect the supply chain has been identified as an appropriate level of such an analysis. This treats the formation and leveraging of strategic alliances and other collaborative mechanisms for competitive advantage as a strategic asset.
Role of theory in management research as a precursor to research process.
The theoretical framework proposed will set the stage for seeking to examine the role of alliances in the strategic management of the natural gas supply chain. The research problem is preliminarily described as an exercise in testing the existence of this form of collaboration and its impact in the strategic decision making of the participants who constitute the supply chain as a whole. In so far as this proposes to examine the existence of the (external) phenomenon and its impact on management behaviour the research process would be designed to test for the existence, role and relevance of strategic alliances among supply chain members. The use of surveys as a means of gathering the base data from various independent members of the supply chain would be appropriate both in terms of allowing timely data collection from a potentially large number of supply chain partners as well as providing objective data that can be compared to the theoretical framework.
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