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What Is the Eisenhardt Method, Really?

There are different types of case-based research methods that differ considerably in their basic assumptions and objectives. An example of such a method is the multi-case theory-building approach, which is based on the work of Kathleen M. Eisenhardt. Her 1989 article, which laid the foundation for this method, has been cited tens of thousands of times to date. Unfortunately, there are countless misconceptions about the method in terms of types of data, number of cases, and performance emphasis. The method is also often overinterpreted as a rigid template, although it was never intended to be such a template. In a new article entitled What Is the Eisenhardt Method, Really?, Eisenhardt now puts her method in a new light and argues that the method’s relatively few defining features enable a wide variety of research possibilities. It should be clear that this new article is important reading for anyone who wants to do research with Eisenhardt’s method and for anyone whose work aims at theory building.

Eisenhardt, K.M. (2021). What Is the Eisenhardt Method, Really? Strategic Organization, 19(1), 147–160. https://doi.org/10.1177/1476127020982866

What the 2021 Nobel Prize Means to SCM Research

This year’s Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics goes to David Card “for his empirical contributions to labour economics” and Joshua D. Angrist and Guido W. Imbens “for their methodological contributions to the analysis of causal relationships”. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences writes in a comprehensive article about the scientific background of this prize (PDF): “Taken together, […] the Laureates’ contributions have played a central role in establishing the so-called design-based approach in economics. This approach – aimed at emulating a randomized experiment to answer a causal question using observational data – has transformed applied work and improved researchers’ ability to answer causal questions of great importance for economic and social policy using observational data.” Similar to what is still widespread in SCM research today, the traditional approach to causal inference in economics relied on structural equation models at least until the 1980s, but, based on the laureates’ work on the local average treatment effect, natural experiments have become increasingly popular in economics. Unfortunately, almost no corresponding research exists in our discipline, but a certain number of natural experiments were carried out in related disciplines (e.g.; Lee & Puranam, 2017; Li & Zhu, 2021; Huang et al., 2021). Perhaps this Nobel Prize can serve as an inspiration for more natural experiments also in the SCM discipline?

How to Eliminate Deforestation From Supply Chains

Supply chains have a decisive influence on global deforestation, a phenomenon closely related to the climate and biodiversity crises. Therefore, guidance is needed for decision-makers to inform the design, implementation and monitoring of supply-chain initiatives to reduce global deforestation. Lambin et al.’s (2018) article, entitled The Role of Supply-Chain Initiatives in Reducing Deforestation, reviews such initiatives, their effectiveness, and the challenges they might face. The authors propose “a typology of strategies pursued by private sector actors to reduce deforestation”. This typology is based on two questions: “Was the strategy adopted independently by a single company or as part of a multi-stakeholder process?” and “Does the initiative only define and communicate goals, or does it also implement actionable changes?” This leads to four supply-chain initiatives: (1) company pledges, (2) codes of conduct, (3) collective aspirations, and (4) sectoral standards. In sum, the article gives a very good overview of key initiatives that could help us to solve one of the most important problems of our time.

Lambin, E.F., Gibbs, H.K., Heilmayr, R. et al. (2018). The Role of Supply-Chain Initiatives in Reducing Deforestation. Nature Climate Change, 8, 109–116. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-017-0061-1

How To Improve Your Writing Skills

What distinguishes a good paper? The idea should be creative, the methodological approach should be flawless, and there should be a theoretical contribution. Sure. However, good communication with the reader is at least as important as all of the rest. Unfortunately, very often I have reviewed manuscripts that contain interesting theories, data, and results, but are simply not well-written. As academics we are often busy, but there is one thing we all should do: read a book about academic writing. The reading time is well invested. I have two book recommendations. The first is Natalie Reid (2018), Getting Published in International Journals: Writing Strategies for European Social Scientists. An academic friend of mine once wrote on LinkedIn that this was the best book he had ever read. And it is really good. My favorite chapters deal with “paragraphing” and “constructing and argument, sentence by sentence”. My second recommendation is aimed at German-speaking academics: Gerlinde Mautner (2019), Wissenschaftliches Englisch: Stilsicher Schreiben in Studium und Wissenschaft. This is one of the best books I have ever read.

Reid, N. (2018): Getting Published in International Journals: Writing Strategies for European Social Scientists. Revised Edition. ISBN 0692929959

Mautner, G. (2019): Wissenschaftliches Englisch: Stilsicher Schreiben in Studium und Wissenschaft. 3rd Edition. ISBN 3825252191

Webinar: “Supply Chain Transformation for a Sustainable Future”, September 8, 2021

How can innovation and new business models transform global supply chains in the transition to a sustainable economy? On September 8, I look forward to joining Juliane Reinecke (King’s College London), together with our speakers from Anglo American and the World Economic Forum, to discuss this topic in a webinar on Supply Chain Transformation for a Sustainable Future. Please register at: https://cbs.nemtilmeld.dk/300/

Survey Research Design in Supply Chain Management

Survey research is one of the most important methodologies in our discipline. Over time, the demands on survey research in SCM have increased – for good reasons. In particular, the design of survey research must reduce the risks of both common method bias and respondent bias. In their important 2018 editorial, entitled Survey Research Design in Supply Chain Management: The Need for Evolution in Our Expectations, Flynn and her coauthors (2018) distinguish between four types of survey research designs. Only one of them, Type 4, sufficiently avoids these two biases. “[A] Type 4 design employs multiple respondents, with the independent and dependent variables addressed by different respondents. It contains some polyadic [i.e., not just one company] constructs, which are addressed by appropriate respondents from different sources.” Anyone who designs a survey in SCM should therefore read this editorial carefully and strictly adhere to the recommendation to use a Type 4 design. Otherwise they risk that the study has no chance of being published in a high-quality academic journal.

Flynn, B., Pagell, M., & Fugate, B. (2018). Survey Research Design in Supply Chain Management: The Need for Evolution in Our Expectations. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 54 (1), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1111/jscm.12161

Authorship of Academic Papers

Every departmental coffee machine has probably already witnessed heated discussions on the subject of authorship. Indeed, there are no generally accepted standards for assigning authorship. McNutt and her coauthors (2018) define authorship as follows: “Each author is expected to have made substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data; or the creation of new software used in the work; or have drafted the work or substantively revised it; AND to have approved the submitted version (and any substantially modified version that involves the author’s contribution to the study); AND to have agreed both to be personally accountable for the author’s own contributions and to ensure that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work, even ones in which the author was not personally involved, are appropriately investigated, resolved, and the resolution documented in the literature.” One thing should be said clearly: Providing a few comments on a text certainly does not constitute “substantial contributions” and, thus, authorship – even if you are a supervisor.

Why Is the SCM Discipline So Silent About the Climate Crisis?

The Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was released today. Bringing together the latest advances in climate science, it addresses the most updated physical understanding of the climate system. Even without this new IPCC report, it should be clear that our planet is in an existential crisis: The scale and intensity of the recent floods in Germany have broken all records and the ongoing fires in Greece have reached biblical proportions; Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said these fires showed “the reality of climate change”. Devastating fires are also raging in Russia, Italy, Turkey, and various other places. Attribution studies show that the recent record-breaking heatwaves in Siberia and Western North America would have been impossible without man-made climate effects (Ciavarella et al., 2020; Philip et al., 2021). Much of the greenhouse gas emissions are generated in global supply chains. Possible solutions to the climate crisis, thus, include new supply chain structures, processes, and business models. Yet, despite the existential threat to our species from this crisis, our discipline has so far been strangely silent. Therefore, I hope that as many SCM scholars as possible will now read the 42-page Summary for Policymakers of the new IPCC report from cover to cover. Our discipline simply cannot continue to ignore the elephant in the room.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2021): Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Geneva, Switzerland. https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/#SPM

2021 SCM Best Paper Award Winners

Two of the leading operations & supply chain management journals have recently announced their best paper award winners. First, the Journal of Supply Chain Management’s best conceptual paper for 2020 is Fabrice Lumineau and Nuno Oliveira’s paper Reinvigorating the Study of Opportunism in Supply Chain Management. Grounded in a review of empirical studies of opportunism, the authors “provide suggestions about research designs and data sources that support an agenda that steers research to refine and develop the theory about opportunism”. JSCM’s best empirical paper for 2020 is Suurmond, Wynstra and Dul’s paper Unraveling the Dimensions of Supplier Involvement and their Effects on NPD Performance: A Meta‐Analysis. This meta-analysis is based on 11,420 observations from 51 studies and “provides strong theoretical and practical insights on the important phenomenon of supplier involvement”. Second, the Journal of Operations Management’s Jack Meredith Best Paper Award goes to Jillian A. Berry Jaeker and Anita L. Tucker, who published an article that is entitled The Value of Process Friction: The Role of Justification in Reducing Medical Costs. These authors examine “‘justification’—an otherwise non-value-added process step that introduces process friction by forcing workers to explain the rationale for requesting an optional service”. Congratulations to the authors of these great papers!

Lumineau, F., & Oliveira, N. (2020). Reinvigorating the Study of Opportunism in Supply Chain Management. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 56 (1), 73-87. https://doi.org/10.1111/jscm.12215

Suurmond, R., Wynstra, F., & Dul, J. (2020). Unraveling the Dimensions of Supplier Involvement and their Effects on NPD Performance: A Meta‐Analysis. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 56 (3), 26-46. https://doi.org/10.1111/jscm.12221

Berry Jaeker, J. A., & Tucker, A. L. (2020). The Value of Process Friction: The Role of Justification in Reducing Medical Costs. Journal of Operations Management, 66 (1-2), 12-34. https://doi.org/10.1002/joom.1024

Supply Chain Diversity Buffers Cities Against Food Shocks

The effects of the climate crisis are increasingly dominating our global news. We have recently witnessed several record temperatures in North America, Scandinavia, and Antarctica, to name a few. This existential crisis also requires making our food supply chains more resilient. A new study of food shocks and how to buffer against them (Gomez et al., Supply Chain Diversity Buffers Cities Against Food Shocks) has just appeared in Nature. The authors acknowledge that “[n]etwork topological diversity and connectivity are key attributes of resilient social−ecological systems” and argue that “[f]ood supply chains, along with other material inflows such as water and energy, are a close analogy to an ecological food web”. They “show that boosting a city’s food supply chain diversity increases the resistance of a city to food shocks of mild to moderate severity by up to 15 per cent”. The model relies on food inflow observations from U.S. metropolitan areas and allows to explain a city’s resistance to food shocks in terms of frequency, intensity, and duration. This is an excellent study, indeed, and I would like to see such studies more frequently in our discipline.

Gomez, M., Mejia, A., Ruddell, B.L. et al. (2021). Supply Chain Diversity Buffers Cities Against Food Shocks. Nature, 595, 250–254. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03621-0