The manufacturing industry involves unpredicted production disruptions; machines can break down, customers can ask for changes in the middle of the development process, or suppliers can deliver defective parts. This means that manufacturing firms often need to rely on organizational resilience practices, or efforts to amend plans when dealing with disruptions. One such strategy involves using a transactive memory system. It refers to collaboration and knowledge integration within the organization, and research has shown that it is important, yet under-utilized.
Authors of this study (Cotta & Salvador, 2020) conducted research to determine what organizational factors predict the use of the transactive memory system. They did this within the context of transactive memory systems theory, which says that a group is better at addressing complex problems when (1) individual members are aware of the expertise in the group, (2) they consider the expertise credible, and (3) they are able to coordinate the retrieval of that expertise. Research has shown that groups that interact within this model perform better in complex tasks.
THE RESEARCH STUDY
The authors surveyed manufacturing firms in Spain and Italy; Italy is the second largest producer of industrial equipment in Europe, and Spain is the fifth largest. Their sample consisted of 192 firms from which department heads and HR staff completed surveys.
First, the researchers found that the higher the level of teamwork orientation held by the head of manufacturing, the more developed the transactive memory system was in that organization. That is, when leaders valued teamwork and encouraged information sharing and knowledge integration, the more their teams did these things in response to disruptions.
Second, the authors found that the higher the level of incentives for cooperation, the more information sharing and knowledge integration occurred. The authors defined cooperation incentives as the extent to which individual rewards and compensation were tied to the organization’s performance.
Role formalization is having specific job titles, detailed job descriptions, and organizational charts. It can make it easier in a large organization to find and seek out a colleague with knowledge or experience in a particular area. The authors’ third finding was that the higher the level of role formalization, the more information sharing and knowledge integration occurred in adjusting order processing.
Given the results of their study, the authors recommend that organizations (especially large ones) utilize role formalization, as it can better help to facilitate information sharing and knowledge integration. They also recommend not only having team-oriented managers, but also filling management positions through internal promotions. This allows managers to have more tenure and thus more organizational connections.
Additionally, the authors recommend putting in place incentives for cooperation. Interestingly, the authors found that incentives or more team-oriented management – each on its own – improved the transactive memory system. Therefore, the authors say that both are not needed; instead, improvement in just one of those practices can lead to a significant improvement in the utilization of transactive memory systems.
Cotta, D., & Salvador, F. (2020). Exploring the antecedents of organizational resilience practices-A transactive memory systems approach. International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 40(9), 1531-1559.