As economies and firm competitive advantage are increasingly based on knowledge rather than materials, firms are moving away from traditional modes of organization in order to meet new demands for competitiveness, flexibility, speed, and novelty (Child and McGrath, 2001; Kellogg, Orlikowski, and Yates, 2006; Volberda, 1996). As part of this broader paradigm shift, an increasing number of firms have outsourced and offshored many of their in-house activities – located them to a wholly owned company or independent service provider in another country – both in order to save costs and, increasingly, to acquire new skills and capabilities not available in-house (e.g., Carmel, 1999; Lewin and Peeters, 2006). Its potential benefits notwithstanding, such disaggregation of the value chain adds an additional layer of management complexity because of the need to manage and coordinate a complex web of knowledge flows and interdependent tasks being performed by distributed teams, marked by differences in geography, skills, norms, language, culture, and interests.
Prior work has provided valuable insights into managing knowledge processes – the access, transfer, dissemination, sharing, and integration of knowledge among dispersed organizational teams (e.g., Argote et al., 2003; Gupta and Govindarajan, 2000). Scholars have emphasized the need for creating both technical compatibility (Ford et al., 2003; Montoya-Weiss et al., 2001; Oshri et al., 2008) and cultural compatibility (D'Adderio, 2001; Fiol and Connor, 2005; Tajfel, 1981) across boundaries in disaggregated value chains and dispersed social architectures.