Qualitative research can be conducted to build theory from field data. The Discovery of Grounded Theory by Glaser and Strauss (1967) remains the fundamental handbook of this approach. SCM journals have recently seen a series of articles advocating for the use of grounded theory, e.g., Mello and Flint (2009, JBL) and Kaufmann and Denk (2011, JSCM). Therefore, I would like to draw attention to three helpful papers. First, Suddaby (2006), offers “a reasonable assessment of common errors researchers make in conducting and presenting grounded theory research”. Herein, he discusses six common misconceptions of what grounded theory is not. Second, O’Reilly et al. (2012) “demystify the key tenets of [grounded theory]”, “discuss the problematic impacts of adopting an a la carte approach to [grounded theory]”, “draw attention to [grounded theory] as a rigorous method”, and, again, “advocate for the increased use of [grounded theory]”. Third, Manuj and Pohlen (2012) “provide a framework to assist reviewers in evaluating grounded theory research”.
Capgemini has published the results of its annual international supply chain survey. The study is titled The 2012 global supply chain agenda. The authors find that the following topics are the key business drivers for 2012: (1) market/demand volatility, (2) economic downturn, (3) meeting (changing) customer, (4) develop emerging markets, and (5) increased material/service costs. The survey participants were asked about the measures taken to improve the flexibility of supply chains. Improved visibility and control, increased flexibility in operations, and reduced capital exposure are the measures mentioned most often. It also turns out that operational excellence, logistics contract renewal, and supply chain visibility are the top supply chain projects in 2012 and that business prioritization, IT capability, and financial/budget limitations are the main bottlenecks for supply chain strategy implementation. The survey findings mirror an observation by PRTM from 2011 that “[h]igh volatility, huge swings in customer demand, and uncertainty in supply have created a new reality for global supply chain executives”.
There is an ongoing debate in supply chain management research about whether or not resource-based theory suggests that supply chain management can be a source of sustained competitive advantage for a firm. Among those who have denied this suggestion is Ramsay (2001), whereas, in his recent essay, Barney (2012) has argued that SCM can, “at least in some settings”, be such a source. In his insightful article, The competitive advantage of interconnected firms: An extension of the resource-based view (AMR, Vol. 31, No. 3), Lavie (2006) follows the relational view, an extension of the resource-based view to networked environments (read my previous text about the relational view). He integrates and extends this view and social network theories, “contrasting the formulation of the traditional [resource-based view] with a reformulated version of the [resource-based view] that takes into account the impact of network resources”. Given the ongoing debate in our field, should SCM researchers adopt Lavie’s reformulation?
Lavie, D. (2006). The competitive advantage of interconnected firms: An extension of the resource-based view. Academy of Management Review, 31 (3), 638-658 DOI: 10.5465/AMR.2006.21318922
Last week, I was invited to beautiful Switzerland, where I held a seminar for supply chain managers from 30 large logistics service providers and manufacturing firms. Initially, these managers were asked about SCM topics they are currently most interested in. Here are some insights gained from the answers: First, ecological sustainability has become a top-priority topic; several managers have mentioned that their SCM activities are concerned with both tackling climate change and reducing waste of resources. Second, international SCM activities are challenging for many participants, particularly in regions such as China, Russia, Brazil, Eastern and Southeast Europe (including Turkey), and the Arabian Peninsula. Third, market volatility seems to be a problem for many firms and many of them strive for improved visibility in their supply chains. Some other topics mentioned by the managers are: evaluation of and collaboration with LSPs, shortage of drivers, returns and repairs, security, and speed (including deliberate deceleration of supply chain processes).