Archive | January 2013

Theory Testing from a Critical Realist Perspective

In a previous post, it was demonstrated that researchers can play two different roles, as they can either build or test theories. An SMJ article by Miller and Tsang (2011), which is titled Testing management theories: Critical realist philosophy and research methods, focuses on the latter role we can play. The authors claim: “Not only do we have a plurality of theories within management research, there is also no consensus about the criteria for evaluating theories.” Taking a critical realist perspective, they advance practical guidance for evaluating management theories by proposing a four-step approach to theory testing. This approach includes (1) identifying the hypothesized mechanisms, (2) testing for the presence of the mechanisms in the empirical setting, (3) testing isolated causal relations, and (4) testing the theoretical system. The authors underline that “steps 2 and 3 have been neglected for the most part”. In sum, a lot can be learnt about theory testing from this brilliant article.

Miller, K., & Tsang, E. (2011). Testing management theories: Critical realist philosophy and research methods. Strategic Management Journal, 32 (2), 139-158 DOI: 10.1002/smj.868

Full Product Transparency (Guest Post by Ramon Arratia, Interface)

In his new book, Full Product Transparency, sustainability pioneer Ramon Arratia argues that we have to move from corporate to product sustainability. I am happy that Ramon followed my invitation to contribute to my blog:

The conventional approach to exercising corporate responsibility in a company’s supply chain is to draft a company supplier standard and then audit for compliance using that document. Positive and usually well-intentioned, the impact is inherently limited by the narrow scope of the dialogue and the teacher–student nature of the relationship. The typical 700 questions questionnaire sent to suppliers usually asks meaningless things such as: “Does your organisation have an environmental policy in place?” Or: “Does your organisation have an environmental management system (EMS) in place?” This is just bureaucracy for the sake of it, taking lots of time from both parts and adding little transformative value to the real environmental impacts of the products. The ideal question for suppliers is: “Send me the environmental product declaration (EPD) of your product and your plan to radically improve it”. After all, you are not buying the whole company. Besides, around 80% of the environmental impacts of products are not in the manufacturer’s realms but in their supply chain.

Ramon Arratia is a sustainability director at Interface and has previously been employed in similar roles at Vodafone and Ericsson. Interface is the winner of the International Green Awards 2012. Ramon is also a blogger of Cut the Fluff.

Creating Added Value beyond Corporate Boundaries

Some months ago, Symrise, a global supplier of fragrances, flavors, active ingredients, and aroma chemicals, has won the German Sustainability Award 2012 in the “Germany’s Most Sustainable Initiatives” category for its approach to procure vanilla in Madagascar: Symrise closely collaborates with more than 1,000 vanilla farmers and “the entire procurement process takes place locally, from cultivation and harvesting, to the fermentation of the beans, all the way through to extraction”. The company partners with NGOs, development organizations, and farmers’ associations to ensure “that its projects in the areas of environmental protection, income diversification, nutrition, health and education continue to blossom over the long term”. Symrise benefits from these activities by receiving reliable access to top-quality raw materials. This initiative demonstrates how social responsibility, environmental protection, and business success can go hand in hand. It is also an example of good supply chain management, as added value is created beyond corporate boundaries.

Logistics and Supply Chain Management Dissertation Awards

Every year, various organizations recognize excellence in research with awards for outstanding dissertations. What follows is a selection of awards related to our field. The Science Award for Supply Chain Management (€10,000 honorarium for the winner) is awarded by the German Logistics Association (BVL). The Stinnes Foundation gives the DB Schenker Award (€10,000) to dissertations related to transportation and logistics. The CSCMP’s Doctoral Dissertation Award ($5,000) is for doctoral students “who demonstrate significant originality and technical competence”. The Hans Ovelgönne Award (€3,500) is awarded by the German Association for Materials Management, Purchasing and Logistics (BME) to dissertations related to procurement. Emerald and the EFMD sponsor the Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards (€1,000). The Elwood S. Buffa Doctoral Dissertation Award Competition ($1,500) recognizes the best dissertations written in the decision sciences. The Jungheinrich Foundation awards the Jungheinrich Award for the best dissertation (€1000). The IPSERA Doctoral Dissertation Award (€500) is given to the author of the best doctoral dissertation in the field of purchasing and supply management. Finally, the TSL Dissertation Prize ($500) is sponsored by the INFORMS Society on Transportation Science & Logistics. Good luck with your application.