Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Political Dynamics of Corporate Co-Evolution: Replicating and Extending a Case Study

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

The Political Dynamics of Corporate Co-Evolution: Replicating and Extending a Case Study

Article excerpt

Around the mid-1990s, a new perspective in organization theory began to intensively examine the dynamics of interactions between companies and their environments as well as the capacity of each to shape the other (Lewin & Volberda, 1999). This perspective became known as co-evolution. Since then, the potential of the perspective to explain phenomena involving organizations and their environments has been affirmed by several studies. Lewin & Volberda (2011), for example, have demonstrated that co-evolution can contribute to understanding outsourcing and the relationship between the activities of multinational subsidiaries and local public policy. Additionally, Murmann (2013) argued that co-evolution helped explain the results of competition among organizations in product markets.

Recently, several researchers have emphasized the importance and urgency of advancing our understanding of the co-evolution of companies and their environments (Child & Rodrigues, 2011; Lawton, McGuire, & Rajwani, 2013; Lewin & Volberda, 2003; McGaughey, Kumaraswamy, & Liesch, 2013). For example, Pacheco, York, and Hargrave (2011) stated, "Relatively few have heeded the call of Lewin and Volberda (1999) and colleagues ... for a more co-evolutionary perspective on organization-environment interactions" (p. 1).

This study contributes to the literature by analyzing the political dynamics of interactions between companies and their environments in situations of co-evolution. The objective is to understand how each party influences the other and the outcomes of these influences. We also seek to determine how the parties are different at the end than they were at the beginning of the process analyzed. It is attuned with call of Child et al. (2013) that recently stated: "We still lack a systematic analysis of how the power and influence held by organizations and external parties might impact on their respective evolution" (p. 9).

To achieve these aims, we replicated a recently published case study. In replication, multiple cases are treated as a series of experiments, where each case confirms or disconfirms the inferences drawn from previous cases (Eisenhardt, 1989a, 1989b; Yin, 2014). The necessity and importance of replicating case studies has been emphasized by several authors (Vissak, 2010, p. 373) who note, "replication allows for confirmation and refutation of the findings of the first case, investigating whether they could be expanded to (somewhat) different situations". Miles and Huberman (1994) discuss how to confirm findings of qualitative studies. They state that cross-case analysis and multiple case studies increase the strength of results and add, "Even stronger: replicate in a brand new case" (p. 274). Others (Morrison, Matuszek, & Self, 2010) claim, "one of reasons for a lack of relevance to contemporary issues is that many of the theories that are currently used in business research have not been replicated in recent years" (p. 278).

The case that this study replicates (Child et al., 2013) analyzed the interactions between companies and their environments in a sector heavily controlled by the Chinese government from a political perspective. The interactions occurred between a company developing a large modern port in Shenzhen and the Chinese government between 1993 and 2002. Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH), a branch of Hutchison Whampoa Limited (HWL), a multinational conglomerate that develops and operates ports, invested in a sizeable port container in the city of Shenzhen. The port was built and operated by Yantian International Container Terminals (YICT), a joint venture between HPH and the Shenzhen government. The case study describes the process of building the port from the initial

Chinese authorities' initiative to identify a partner for the project in 1993 until 2007, when it became the world's largest container port in throughput volume. The authors detail the evolution of port capacity and service quality, institutional barriers that were overcome, difficult negotiations and initiatives by both parties and their consequences. …

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