Exploring interfaces: Making the case for interdisciplinary research

Holweg, Matthias and Srai, Jagjit (2013) Exploring interfaces: Making the case for interdisciplinary research. International Journal of Operations and Production Management, 33 (7).


General introductory statements of research papers commenting on the “increasingly global business environment”, “ever more demanding customers”, and “rises in complexity” that businesses have to operate in have become the norm in management research. The perception of an increasing pace of change is prevalent in both academia and practice, and this is mirrored in the development of the operations management (OM) field over the last decades (Amoako-Gyampah and Meredith, 1989; Pilkington and Meredith, 2009; Sprague, 2007). OM has evolved from a set of factory-focused questions and techniques (such as inventory management, production scheduling, the development of MRP/ERP systems and later continuous improvement practices such as lean thinking, quality management, and Six Sigma) to more strategic and cross-functional concepts involving the adoption of methodologies and theories from relevant disciplines. These related disciplines include engineering (e.g. systems dynamics and control theory approaches) and management (e.g. strategy-based theories such as the resource-based view and dynamic capabilities), and the integration of functional disciplines like IT, marketing, finance and services more generally. Similarly the scope of the domain has shifted from the consideration of in-factory specific processes to extended production and supply networks, spanning international borders, requiring linkages to be drawn with disciplines such as international business and economic geography that integrate concepts informing the global dispersion of operations.

Such change in pace has fundamental implications for management research. We would argue that the role of academia is to provide insights and guidance to firms, to transcend buzzwords, and distil patterns and develop generic insights – not just to provide contingent perspectives on current affairs. We need to challenge our theory by looking at real problems, and hence by testing our existing constructs in these new settings. Discarding or amending existing theory in the light of a change in the business context is a fundamental means of improving our knowledge. And it is here that we perceive a great opportunity for interdisciplinary studies: being able to analyse an operations problem through two (or more) functional lenses is likely to yield new and different insights than what might be possible from studying such phenomena from one perspective alone.

In this short piece we will comment on the nature of interdisciplinary work, how it is conducted, highlight some of the emerging Operations Management research themes where it can add value, before introducing the papers in this special issue.

Item Type: Article
Subject(s): Operations management
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2016 14:38
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2016 14:38
Funders: n/a
URI: http://eureka.sbs.ox.ac.uk/id/eprint/5976

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