Files in this item



application/pdfElizabeth_Carlson.pdf (2MB)
(no description provided)PDF


Title:Collaboration and confrontation in interorganizational coordination: preparing to respond to disasters
Author(s):Carlson, Elizabeth
Director of Research:Lammers, John C.; Poole, Marshall S.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Lammers, John C.; Poole, Marshall S.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Caughlin, John P.; Jackson, Sally A.
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):interorganizational coordination
disaster response
Abstract:Situations that call for interorganizational coordination are often ones in which there is no higher authority to mandate how the cooperating organizations will work together. Scholars and practitioners often see collaboration as a solution to the challenge of egalitarian interorganizational organizing. In order to truly evaluate this premise, scholars must first define the communication behaviors that constitute collaboration. Then they must address the misconception that collaborative approaches in and of themselves somehow prevent or eliminate conflicts. Rather, as Poole (2013) reasons, whether or not collaborators confront one another to address differences may differentiate between effective collaborations and “pathological” collaborations. The present project operationalizes collaborative interaction – a term proposed by Lewis (2006) – as well as Poole’s (2013) concept of confrontation to better understand how agents involved in interorganizational coordination may or may not engage in such behaviors, and what happens as a result. To study these phenomena, I designed a mixed-method study of interagency coordination in multi-agency disaster response exercises. In Phase 1, I observed three such exercises involving a variety of city, county and state response agencies in different geographical areas of a Midwestern state. In addition to the exercises themselves, I attended the exercise planning meetings for two of the exercises, and I interviewed fourteen members of the planning committee of the most complex exercise. I analyzed these qualitative data to better understand what kinds of coordination conflicts arise in a multi-agency disaster response exercise and how participants communicate in response to those conflicts. I found that agency representatives were unlikely to address their concerns directly to the interfering party as soon as something prompted those concerns. Instead, they directed concerns to a liaison – often, the exercise’s lead facilitator – who may not have been in position to influence the interfering party. Other times, they held back concerns until the debrief discussion after the exercise; sometimes these debrief discussions prompted robust group problem-solving, but a few key stakeholders were almost always missing. Those agency representatives who did raise their concerns directly to the interfering party sometimes encountered resistance or indifference, but other times, they were able to engage in dialogue about each agency’s needs and to make provisional cooperative decisions about how to work together differently in the future. Next, I used the results of Phase 1 to design a questionnaire to better understand the relationship between collaborative communication behaviors, confrontive communication behaviors, what motivates such behaviors, and how they affect exercise outcomes. In Phase 2 of the study, I distributed the online questionnaire to a sample of response professionals who had completed incident command courses at a local fire service institute. I asked participants to think of a multi-agency disaster response exercise in which they had participated in the past three years, and to answer a series of questions about their perceptions of and activities associated with this focal exercise. Participants (n = 245) were affiliated with a variety of types of response agencies, but the largest proportions came from fire, law enforcement, public health, and emergency management. Approximately half (47%) reported on an exercise that they had helped to plan. My analysis evaluated a series of original scales and addressed four research questions related to the relationships between key variables. I found that collaborative interaction behaviors and confrontive interaction behaviors appear to constitute distinct but related constructs, and both showed a strong positive association with exercise participants’ satisfaction with the exercise. Motivations, such as the anticipated benefit for the participant’s home agency and the impression that other participating agencies appear motivated to learn, also showed strong positive associations with participants’ satisfaction. The extent of the individual’s involvement with exercise activities did not appear to be a strong predictor of collaborative interaction or of exercise satisfaction; neither did the agency’s investment of resources in the exercise. The study as a whole provides a rationale for future study of how confrontation may help collaborators foster productive conflict while limiting unproductive conflict – and ultimately achieve effective interorganizational coordination.
Issue Date:2014-09-16
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Elizabeth J. Carlson
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-09-16
Date Deposited:2014-08

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

Item Statistics