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Shared leadership and decision making in scattered organizations coping with risky situations – LEDEPAGOD

Leadership and shared decisions in geographically dispersed organizations in risky situations

The objective was to provide a better understanding of leadership and decision-making mechanisms, potentially able to improve the members’ security-performance relation who are risk exposed. The research field is high mountaineering expeditions supported by meteorological assistance.

Leadership and shared decision-making mechanisms when resources are spread over a temporary or a newly formed organization

Overall, the research project aimed at studying the conditions and the impacts of shared leadership and decision-making, especially when: <br /> <br />• Decision-making competences, knowledge and means are spread over a temporary or a newly formed organization; <br />• Mutual knowledge between members is potentially absent; <br />• Leadership participants use diversified means of communication (e-mails, text messages, mobile phone, radio,…); <br />• People’s safety is involved; <br />• Emergency and stakes are seen as stress factors; <br />• Risk exposure for the members is mixed; some being directly exposed, others being safe. <br />

Collected data consisted of in-depth interviews conducted before and after each expedition. These interviews were addressed to meteorologists, who assisted the expedition, as well as, to the expedition leader. Collected data also included all the e-mails and text messages sent during the expedition, and when possible, recordings of phone calls between expedition leaders and meteorologists during the process of summit push. These data, sometimes completed by secondary data (expedition blogs, audio or video recordings taken by expedition members in situ), are analysed at two levels. The first level of analysis aimed at reconstructing the evolution of the expedition (dates of specific events and key decisions). When data permitted it, the second level consisted of an in-depth analysis of members’ interactions. For instance, the aim here was to scrutinize discursive practices over time. Preliminary results emerged from the comparison between different expeditions and led to a better apprehension of the degree of performance/ risk in the expedition and of its distributed leadership mechanisms. The research also examined how members and expedition practices contributed to distributed leadership mechanisms.

The analysis of interactions between meteorologists and expedition leaders led to:
i) observe two configurations – coordinated and collective – of distributed leadership. By contrast with existing results, these two configurations are not necessarily substitutable but could coexist.
ii) temper the existing view that, in presence of complex tasks, virtual teams use rich and synchronous media. This research shows that the use of coordinative artefacts is less depending on the task complexity than on the nature of the transmitted information.

Informations factuelles
« LEDEPAGOD project (Leadership and shared decisions in geographically dispersed organizations in risky situations) is an action research coordinated by Gérard Kœnig. It associates the Institut de recherche en Gestion (IRG) of the University of Paris Est and the Groupe de Recherche en Droit, Economie, Gestion (GREDEG) of CNRS and of the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis. The research project started in July 2011 and lasted for 48 months. All expenses inducted by the research project are of xxx euros and are entirely held by the ANR financial support.

Given that data collection ended up being more difficult than initially planned, data kept being collected until the end of the contract. Consequently, data analysis is far from being achieved. At this stage of the research, the project led to two articles published in peer-reviewed journals, to 9 communications to conferences and to an article addressed to practitioners. At the moment, several articles are being written or evaluated.

With the recent impact of globalization as well as with the development of new means of telecommunication, organizations are now facing the challenge of activities’ spatial dispersion and of the transformation of interactions into virtual interactions. In this context, traditional views on leadership and decision-making have been questioned by the diversity of local situations, by the need for responsiveness and by the increased competences of intermediary hierarchies. Risk management is largely concerned with these evolutions and is increasingly handled by complex organizations characterized by geographically dispersed competences.

The current project aims at studying the conditions and the impacts of shared leadership and decision-making, especially when:
• decision-making competences and means are spread over a temporary or a newly formed organization;
• mutual knowledge between members is potentially absent;
• leadership participants use diversified means of communication;
• people’s safety is involved;
• emergency and stakes are seen as stress factors;
• risk exposure for the members is mixed.

Overall, the objective is to provide a better understanding of leadership and decision-making mechanisms, potentially able to improve the security-performance relation. The research field is high mountains expeditions, since they are supported by meteorological assistance. This specific choice of field results from the nature of the situation (uncertainty, unexpected events, risk and time pressure) as well as from the familiarity researchers have developed with it.

The current research is collaborative and basic. Its collaborative nature lies in the involvement of two meteorologists specialized in high mountains assistance. A public institution employs one of them, while the other is employed by a small enterprise in German-speaking Switzerland. They both personify two conceptions of meteorological assistance, which significantly differed from each other regarding the meteorologist’s involvement in decision-making and in leadership processes.

The research object, namely shared decision-making and leadership, has naturally determined the basic nature of this project. Although this research issue has already been raised in the 1950s, it only led, so far, to a significantly small number of empirical in situ contributions. As observed in the literature overview, the proposed project offers to question propositions considered as too broad and to develop different theoretical frameworks: shared leadership, high reliability organizations, Naturalistic Decision Making.

While this project is not interdisciplinary in an institutional sense – as it is mainly developed within the management discipline – yet it deals with different sub-themes of management in which the project’s researchers have already been involved with in the past:
• Organizational learning and highly reliable organizations;
• Leadership and team decision-making;
• Communication based approaches of organizations.

This research is qualitative and consists of a longitudinal study of twelve expeditions based on constant comparisons between three types of expeditions and two modes of meteorological assistance. Depending on the different methods employed, data collection – in real as well as deferred time and on as well as off the premises – includes both primary and secondary data. This project suggests to collect and to process qualitative data simultaneously during the first two years of the research.

Beyond dealing with meteorological assistance, this research is aimed at showing that shared decisions between experts separated by space will be considerably developed in the future, mainly as a result of telecommunications’ development. These transformations reassess the concept of a team and of decision-making process, in a similar way as it has been done with telemedicine, which shares strong similarities with the object of this project.

Project coordinator


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.



Help of the ANR 210,000 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: June 2011 - 36 Months

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