Thinking Differently About Supply Chain Resilience
Today I would like to introduce you to our new article entitled Thinking Differently About Supply Chain Resilience: What We Can Learn From Social-Ecological Systems Thinking, which is the result of an exciting collaboration with Mark Stevenson, Steven A. Melnyk, Simin Davoudi, and Lisen Schultz. We argue that the supply chain resilience literature should be expanded to include insights from the social-ecological systems literature. Five practical examples of disruptive events are used to demonstrate how current theoretical lenses fail to capture the complexity of supply chain resilience. The article presents three manifestations of resilience (persistence, adaptation, and transformation) and seven principles of resilience thinking that can be applied to supply chains. We believe that a social-ecological interpretation of supply chains offers many new avenues for research, which may rely on the use of innovative research methods to advance our understanding of supply chain resilience. Our article has been published in the International Journal of Operations & Production Management.
Wieland, A., Stevenson, M., Melnyk, S.A., Davoudi, S., & Schultz, L. (2023). Thinking Differently About Supply Chain Resilience: What We Can Learn From Social-Ecological Systems Thinking, International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 43(1), 1–21. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOPM-10-2022-0645
Gap-Spotting or Problematization
How should researchers construct research questions for their academic work? One intuitive answer is by spotting a gap in the existing academic literature. This is certainly an effective approach that follows the Popperian scientific method. In addition to gap-spotting, there is a second approach that deserves a little more attention: problematization. Alvesson and Sandberg (2011) describe this approach in their famous article Generating Research Questions Through Problematization (a must read!). They write that “[t]he dominance of gap-spotting is surprising, given it is increasingly recognized that theory is made interesting and influential when it challenges assumptions that underlie existing literature.” This is what problematization does: it is about identifying and challenging assumptions that underlie existing theories and generating research questions that lead to the development of more interesting and influential theories. Of course, we will still need gap-spotting in the future. But I do believe that SCM research could benefit from more problematization.
Alvesson, M., & Sandberg, J. (2011). Generating Research Questions Through Problematization. Academy of Management Review, 36(2), 247–271. https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2009.0188
Why SCM Researchers Should Read Novels
Language in academic texts should not only be used to list arguments, to summarize methodical steps, or to report results. Too often, as a reviewer, I have read manuscripts that have not effectively used what I consider to be the most important function of language in academic texts: Above all, language should serve to communicate with the reader. In some cases, I could not believe how imprecise sentences were formulated, how unconvincing arguments were developed, and how the language simply lacked “beauty”. In fact, there is no contradiction between a neutrally worded text, if that is desired, and the pleasure that a reader feels while reading it. Unfortunately, authors often also lack vocabulary. I can only recommend every academic author to read an English novel at least once in a while and to pay attention to the language. Of course, the language in academic texts differs from that in novels. But there is still a lot to learn.
That’s Interesting! That’s Important! Or Both?
Should academic articles be interesting? At least that is the main message of the famous article That’s Interesting! Towards a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of Phenomenology by Davis (1971). Generations of Ph.D. students have read it, and those who have not should definitely do so. However, there are also authors who have criticized Davis’s arguments. In an article entitled That’s Interesting! A Flawed Article Has Influenced Generations of Management Researchers, Tsang (2022) recently identified five detrimental outcomes that result from “obsession with interestingness”: (1) promoting an improper way of doing science, (2) encouraging post hoc hypothesis development, (3) discouraging replication studies, (4) ignoring the proper duties of a researcher, and (5) undermining doctoral education. Similarly, Academy of Management Journal’s editor Tihanyi (2020) titled his recently published editorial From “That’s Interesting” to “That’s Important”. As so often, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. In order to find it, it is definitely worth looking into these three articles during the summer holidays.
Davis, M.S. (1971). That’s Interesting! Towards a Phenomenology of Sociology and a Sociology of Phenomenology. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 1(2), 309–344. https://doi.org/10.1177/004839317100100211
Experiments in Supply Chain Management Research
Experiments have exerted a growing methodological influence on the SCM discipline in recent years. In their recently published article on this subject, entitled Experiments in Strategy Research: A Critical Review and Future Research Opportunities, Bolinger et al. (2021) examine and categorize experiments by “[identifying] topic areas in which experiments have been effectively deployed as well as several literature streams that have a limited amount of prior experimental research.” The authors also discuss challenges in using experiments, thereby addressing the level of analysis. SCM researchers should pay particular attention to this aspect, as many of the phenomena they study are not located at the firm level, as in strategy research, but at the supply chain level. The authors argue that their work “documents experimental research and provides a methodological practicum, thereby offering a platform for future experiment-based research in strategic management”. Although the authors review extant experimental work in strategic management, their results are certainly also very useful for SCM researchers.
Bolinger, M. T., Josefy, M. A., Stevenson, R., & Hitt, M. A. (2022). Experiments in Strategy Research: A Critical Review and Future Research Opportunities. Journal of Management, 48(1), 77–113. https://doi.org/10.1177/01492063211044416
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
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.
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