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What Factors Lead to Integration?

Although rigorous research on integration has not been lacking, the majority of it has focused on the influences of environmental factors that precede or predict integration. Such predictive factors have included environmental variables such as uncertainty, as well as several internal organizational facilitators, such as firm strategies and structures. From the perspective of most managers, however, environmental and/or organizational factors represent institutional constraints rather than decision variables; they impact the firm’s ability to integrate, but are largely uncontrollable by managers even in the long run. Thus, the existing research on environmental/organizational antecedents has provided little guidance to managers as to actionable steps that are under their control and that would promote integration in the context of day-to-day operations. This failure on the part of the academy to identify more prescriptive models (to date) has placed managers in the unenviable position of being tasked with developing and maintaining integration with little or no guidance on how to achieve it.

As a result, a young but growing stream of research has begun to focus more intently on how managers can achieve integration across the supply chain by exploring its behavioral antecedents. Behavioral antecedents include the attitudes, behaviors, and decisions exhibited by managers and other employees within the context of day-to-day business operations. Behaviors that appear to enable integration include, for example, demonstrating a cooperative attitude, engaging in informal communication across functional boundaries, gaining an understanding of other functions’ activities, and being flexible in decision making. Such behavioral antecedents capture the basic attitudes and actions of individual supply chain professionals and reflect their impacts on the difficult task of achieving integration in a given context. In this sense, behaviors can be thought of as a form of the “soft skills” that have often been identified in the practitioner literature as a critical component for supply chain success, but how they impact the integration of the supply chain remains poorly understood.

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