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Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Configurational Thinking in Management Studies

Conrad Schulze-Bentrop

This study was awarded the Preis des Präsidiums für ausgezeichnete Dissertationen der Universität Paderborn as well as the Preis der Unternehmergruppe Ostwestfalen für hervorragende Dissertationen.

Qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) – especially its fuzzy set version – has emerged as a new methodological tool in management studies which is ideally suited to test configurational theories. For the first time, the peculiarities of QCA in large-N designs are comprehensively analysed. Based on a systematic compilation of 145 empirical QCA studies valuable insights for the use of QCA as a quantitative technique are presented. For example, an innovative formula is developed which can substantially improve future model specifications. In a next step, the potential of QCA in management research is outlined by tracing configurational theories in a range of disciplines including strategy, HRM, marketing, and international business. This tour d’horizon through management studies highlights the wide application area of the methodology. Finally, an illustrative study is conducted using the fuzzy set version of QCA.


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4. An illustrative QCA: Work groups and tay-lorism


113 4. An illustrative QCA: Work groups and tay- lorism In this study, fuzzy set QCA is conducted on 510 firms and 6 conditions. It serves as exemplar by incorporating all the newly developed criteria from the preceding chapters. In particular, the model specification formula is applied, hypotheses about necessity and sufficiency are formulated, and taxonomies are empirically created based on conjunctural hypotheses. Furthermore, the con- sistency gap is diminutive in size and, accordingly, the consistency threshold is chosen based upon plausibility. Finally, (pseudo) limited diversity is kept at a moderate level and the findings rely on the complex solution. In theoretical terms, the study is related to the literature on both organisational and HR con- figurations. In particular, the organisational configurations are examined which show an optimal fit to the HR configuration referred to as holistic group work. The property space in which the various organisational configurations can excel is not only restricted by the external fit to the HR configuration but also by an environmental fit to the institutional configuration in Germany. The QCA is conducted on data from the NIFA workplace panel, a dataset representative of the German mechanical engineering industry. The fsQCA shows that plants must be endowed necessarily with a multi-skilled workforce and advanced com- puterised information or production technology. Based on these assets, employ- ers only implement holistic work groups if the plant’s production system is geared towards flexibility. In a next step, using t-tests, it is shown that plants with flexible production and...

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