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Information seeking and collaborative decision-making behaviour in consultancy project teams: a network theoretic viewpoint

Sulafa Badi (Faculty of Business and Law, British University in Dubai (BUiD), Dubai, United Arab Emirates)
Hanxiao Ji (Bartlett School of Sustainable Construction, University College London, London, UK)
Edward G. Ochieng (Faculty of Business and Law, British University in Dubai (BUiD), Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management

ISSN: 1741-0401

Article publication date: 8 June 2021

266

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to examine how embeddedness influences consultants' information seeking when making decisions within a social network of relationships, and how these social networks evolve throughout the project delivery stages. The study is grounded in social network theory and examines embeddedness from three perspectives: structural (network cohesion), relational (tie strength in terms of friendship and knowledge awareness) and actor prominence.

Design/methodology/approach

A social network analysis (SNA) questionnaire was administered to a team of consultants working on a management consultancy project in Shanghai, China. The SNA measures of density, degree centrality and betweenness centrality were used to analyse relationship patterns among project team members, permitting comparison between the networks. Networks were also compared across the three project delivery stages of collect, consider and create.

Findings

Structural embeddedness was observed in the active information seeking behaviour among consultancy team members. The moderate network density of the self-organising information seeking networks across the project delivery stages ensures that the team remains connected but avoids information redundancy and overload. Relational embeddedness was evident through the multiplexity of ties among team members with overlapping friendship and information seeking relationships. The knowledge awareness network's sparseness indicates a team of autonomous knowledge workers with distributed expertise. Project managers were the most prominent actors across the three project delivery stages, underlining these actors' relational leadership role.

Practical implications

The study provides a deeper understanding of collaborative decision-making behaviours in dynamic-project environments. Limited attempts have been made to visualise and analyse the relationships involved in small consulting teams. The novelty of the network approach adopted stems from its ability to offer a structural view of the relationship among consultants, thus offering a distinctive and arguably more complete picture of consultancy team dynamics.

Originality/value

The study validates the social network theory of embeddedness in a real-world collaborative decision-making setting and provides a deeper understanding of information seeking behaviours for decision-making in dynamic-project environments. From a project management process viewpoint, the evolving nature of the information seeking network as it changes across the project stages with associated actors' roles was also visualised graphically, offering a distinctive and arguably more complete picture of consultancy team dynamics.

Keywords

Citation

Badi, S., Ji, H. and Ochieng, E.G. (2021), "Information seeking and collaborative decision-making behaviour in consultancy project teams: a network theoretic viewpoint", International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPPM-08-2020-0438

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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