Boundary work: a configurational analysis

Andrew Drown, a postgraduate researcher at LUBS will discuss Boundary work: a configurational analysis.


The success of agile methods for small, co-located software development teams has been described as a paradigm shift in software engineering. Consequently, motivation to apply these methods in large, multi-team projects has steered both researchers and organisations towards the development of a number of large-scale agile frameworks. 

Implementing agile development practices in large-scale domains, however, is thwarted with challenges. Previous empirical studies have particularly noted the difficulty of establishing effective coordination, as teams must manage dependencies between multiple inter- and intra-organisational parties, such as cross-functional and cross-project teams, customers/users, and stakeholders. 

In order to effectively collaborate and manage these dependencies, agile teams are likely required to conduct boundary work, defined as an external team process in which a work group engages with its external organisational system in order to manage external demands and disruptions. However, our understanding of how and when boundary work activities manifest to facilitate team performance is fundamentally limited. Despite the benefits of specific dimensions of boundary work being well documented in extant literature, the interactions between these dimensions do not necessarily manifest in a simple or synergistic manner. Additionally, research illustrates that team members vary significantly in their level of boundary engagement. Despite this, researchers are yet to establish which variables best predict this variance. 

Fuzzy set qualitative comparative analysis (fsQCA) is a case-based, configurational technique that allows for the examination of causal complexity. By viewing cases as complex configurations of interconnected conditions, fsQCA may highlight a variety of causal “recipes” that are associated with a given outcome. By identifying multiple configurations of boundary work activities and antecedents, a more holistic and informative perspective can be provided on how and when boundary work manifests to predict high, and separately low, team performance. 

This is an ongoing collaborative PhD project with BT/Openreach, and we seek feedback in preparation for upcoming data collection.

About the speaker: 

Andrew Drown is a postgraduate researcher at Leeds University Business School. After graduating from Lancaster University, Andrew gained experience working as a retail manager in a large multinational company based in the North of England. During this time, he was inspired to pursue an academic career and use his experiences to inform his research interests. Andrew holds an MSc Management degree from LUBS. 

For any questions please email Chiahuei wu.