Is Supply Chain Management a Discipline? A Comparative Content Analysis of Academic and Practitioner Knowledge to Determine Disciplinary Identity
This thesis holds in tension two perspectives on the conceptual framing of supply chain management (SCM): one as a discipline, the other as a domain of practice. It provides a unique appraisal into the conflict existing within SCM by addressing gaps in previous studies, through employing knowledge management (KM) to inform both academic and practitioner conceptualisations of SCM. Application of the core assumptions and deliberations of Fabian’s disciplinary analysis criteria (coherence, knowledge, and quality) combined with Kuhn’s theory of disciplinary evolution permits examination of academic and practitioner conceptualisations of SCM. The analysis aims to challenge the assumption within previous studies that SCM’s disciplinary identity is ascertainable via one conceptualisation (academia) and through only two of Fabian’s criteria (coherence and quality). This thesis contributes to both theoretical development and analytical methodology by elucidating SCM’s body of knowledge to provide insight into its disciplinary identity through employing content analysis from a pragmatist’s perspective. This research is conducted through content analysis of an archive of 1,371 articles extracted from four representative academic and practitioner publications covering the period from 1998 to 2008. The selected texts represent core developments of SCM knowledge, providing insight into theoretical and practical development over this timeframe from both academic and practitioner perspectives. This approach is unique, as the influence of practice on a discipline’s identity is overlooked in the literature. Subsequently, new opportunities of investigatory scope extend the dialogue on SCM’s disciplinary identity. Fabian’s three criteria form the basis for the disciplinary analysis framework employed within this thesis, examining whether sufficient indicators of these criteria exist within the texts to signify that SCM is a discipline. Specifically, analysis of academic and practitioner conceptualisations as to the degree of coherence, the existence of a unified body of knowledge, and the degree of quality within SCM indicate a fragmented discourse. Academic and practitioner conceptualisations of SCM indicate that highly informative divergent discourses exist, representing a discipline in crisis and a domain of practice that is strategically mature. The potential effects of such divergent conceptualisations are acknowledged as they serve as a warning of the impending disintegration of SCM as a researchable entity. Although SCM is argued to be effectively ‘dead’ as a discipline, future developments in the overall operations field enable opportunities for development, both conceptually and within practice. In reflecting on the research this thesis concludes on an optimistic note, for the potential exists to re-weave the tapestry of ideas represented by the term ‘SCM’ into a new form able to manifest the interests of both academia and practice. Thus, the re-weaving of operations management to be more representative of reality is required to ensure its sustainability. In conclusion, the lesson to be learned from this research is that integration of academic and practitioner conceptualisations through their respective discursive practices is essential for the legitimacy and longevity of a discipline.
Advisor: Everett, André; Kirkwood, Jodyanne
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Department of Management
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: supply chain management; disciplinary identity
Research Type: Thesis