Chapter 10: Reflections and Synthesis on Theoretical Insights


Chapter 10: Reflections and Synthesis on Theoretical Insights

10.1 Introduction

The set of case studies discussed in this book emphasizes the significant complexity inherent in GSAs, and the need for theoretical approaches that allow us to go ˜behind the surface of the phenomenon and build insights that help answer questions about ˜Why does the GSA process unfold a particular way? In the cases discussed, the complexity of GSAs has been described as a multiplicity of inter-connected influences including aspects of industry, national economy, organizational strategies and the desires, expectations and mobility of individual developers operating in a global marketplace . The increased interest in GSAs has introduced new actors into ongoing debates on immigration and foreign policy. While firms may argue for GSAs based on economic and resource considerations, worker associations and unions criticize the potential danger of local job losses and argue instead for the retraining of unemployed adult populations. Government policy makers , especially in developing countries , face the complex task of balancing the need for fostering growth, which inevitably requires the active engagement of private sector investments that GSA firms provide, with the protection of rights of marginalized groups.

Beck (2000) uses the metaphor of ˜Brazilianization to describe the global employment market in the West which he considers to be increasingly characterized by unemployment and underemployment. Writing from primarily a European perspective, Beck paints a rather bleak picture of the world of work, and tends to downplay how global relocation of work from countries such as Germany can lead to opportunities in other parts of the world, such as India. New technological developments and the opening up of new global markets as a result of liberalization processes tend to destabilize ongoing relationships, as the potential to establish new GSAs emerges. GSAs can thus be seen as an interesting instance of the global employment market that Beck describes, as they bring together a complex set of issues including politics, economics and social and cultural change. German policy on the ˜green-card scheme to attract non- European software programmers, for instance, has helped to open up broader debates on policies towards foreigners and immigration. These debates are intricately linked to questions of how and with whom German organizations should form global alliances, which in turn has implications for individual-level issues of who gets what kind of jobs and the skills that become important or redundant as a result. These questions in turn have further implications for other systems such as education. Should English be used to teach courses that have historically been taught in the German language, for example?

This complexity inherent in GSAs cautions against taking single-level and discrete approaches that seek to identify factors that influence the decisions surrounding outsourcing. While sensitivity to these factors is important in appreciating important issues, they are limited in explaining the inter-connectivity between such issues and how they are redefined over the duration of the GSA relationship. We have conceptualized GSAs in a ˜model of and ˜model for relationship with processes of globalization, which implies that GSAs reflect, and also serve as carriers of, globalization. While GSAs reflect the ˜network society structure, understanding the working of GSAs helps us to develop insights into the dynamics of networked and global organizations. The ˜successes or ˜failures of GSAs lead actors to develop positive or negative attitudes towards not only globalization but also the countries and organizations involved. As organizations enter new countries, managers need to learn the local ˜language , and develop a broad cultural understanding of their alliance partners attitudes towards such issues as time deadlines and quality. Even though these forays into culture are initially often very superficial, they potentially provide a point of entry from which actors can develop deeper cross-cultural understandings.

The case studies in this book have traced the mutual linkages between GSA processes and globalization through the different theoretical lenses of standardization (chapter 4), identity (chapter 5), space and place (chapter 6), knowledge transfer (chapter 7), power and control (chapter 8) and cross-cultural communication (chapter 9). A primary focus in each case has been on one key issue (for example, standardization). This individual focus raises the danger of an analysis that can be criticized for being ˜ reductionist , but it permits an in-depth theoretical study of a particular issue. Our intention is not to argue that one issue ˜corresponds to a particular case, but to find an appropriate balance between exploring an issue in depth and a synthesis across the issues. While not denying the inter-connectivity that exists across the issues, we draw attention to the themes that became prominent during data collection and its analysis, the reading of related literature and theory-building. For example, we have used standardization as the primary lens for the analysis of the Witech case in chapter 4, while acknowledging the role standardization also plays in shaping complexities in knowledge transfer and in the construction of identity. The separation of these themes has been made primarily for analytical purposes. The aim of this chapter is to shift the focus to the inter-connectivity between the themes and develop a synthesis of the various theoretical issues. Finding this balance will help us respond to Walsham s (1998) call for the use of ˜ theories that can help us to generalize the results from micro-level studies (1998: 1081).

Before we discuss the synthesis of the theoretical themes, we reflect on how the theoretical ideas evolved. The aim of this reflection is to provide some insights into the process of theory-building, especially the relation between empirical data and conceptual ideas.

These reflections are discussed in the next section, followed by a more detailed discussion linking up the themes in the book. Finally, we reflect on some limitations and possible future extensions of the research programme.