3 May 2022, 15 - 16.30 

Sustaining Complex Collaboration

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Pedro Monteiro

Copenhagen Business School

This paper examines how complex collaboration across expertise domains—i.e., large-scale work of multiple specialist groups—is sustained across space and time. On the one hand, organization design research has examined the structural mechanisms supporting large-scale interdependent work yet overlooked how these structures are enacted. On the other hand, while more recent research examined how collaboration is achieved in practice, it backgrounds the role of formal structures and focuses on the interactions across a few specialist groups in discreet collaboration episodes. This paper bridges these two literature streams. Drawing on 15 months of fieldwork in the engineering unit of an aeronautical company, it examines how employees and managers sustain their collaboration by narratively celebrating, teaching, warning, and reprimanding each other about their collaboration goals and structures that support it. These findings advance our understanding of organizational collaboration in large-scale undertakings and the situated mechanism through which bureaucratic structures assume particular meanings, thus contributing to discussions on collaboration, knowledge work, and organizational forms.