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Executive and professional education

 

A new study co-authored by Dr Allègre Hadida of Cambridge Judge Business School identifies three different types of temporary marketing organisations and the challenges they pose.

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Dr Allègre Hadida
Dr Allègre Hadida

Marketing activity is increasingly carried out within “temporary” organisations set up to handle a specific task within a given timeframe – for reasons of speed, efficiency or cost control.

For example, much new product development in the pharmaceutical industry is not handled in-house by drug companies but through temporary coalitions of research centres, IT firms, universities and private laboratories. In some cases, this can boost organisational agility and help a product’s rapid commercialisation.

However, this trend carries its own organisational challenges that can compromise performance and lead to uneven outcomes. Some scholars even compared a temporary organisation to the “organisational analogue of a one-night stand” – with a “high variance” of outcomes, some impressive and some highly disappointing.

A new study co-authored by Allègre Hadida, University Senior Lecturer in Strategy at Cambridge Judge Business School, addresses the challenges posed by temporary marketing organisations in terms of selection and enforcement.

The study, just published in the Journal of Marketing, identifies three different forms of temporary organisations – stand-alone, hybrid and fully embedded – in order to provide a conceptual operational framework. It discusses how such organisations, in contrast to more traditional corporate structures, often lack a distinct past and future – and in fact often involve a diverse group of people working together for the very first time.

The study – entitled “The Temporary Marketing Organization” – is co-authored by Allègre Hadida of Cambridge Judge Business School, Jan Heide of the School of Business at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Simon Bell of the Faculty of Business & Economics at the University of Melbourne.

Allègre Hadida discusses some of the study’s findings and conclusions:

“Stand-alone” temporary organisations, which are quite common in certain sectors such as advertising, pose significant selection issues. The manager of such an organisation needs to identify skills and knowledge bases for the particular task, often starting from scratch. An enforcement mechanism is also needed to ensure that members use their skills to the fullest, because the discrete time horizon of such stand-alone organisations generates weak incentives for cooperation.

A “hybrid” temporary organisation involves parties that interacted on previous tasks, so they have some history. This is very common in the film industry, where the same directors, actors and screenwriters may cross paths over the years and then go their separate ways again. It’s also seen in products that are upgraded over time, such as the 50-year-old Boeing 737 aircraft, in which aerospace contractors used in the past are often chosen again for subsequent development phases.

The “fully embedded” organisation sits within the boundaries of a permanent organisation. This brings the probability of continuing association, limiting the need for distinct enforcement procedures, even if these temporary organisations are formed and dissolved relatively quickly. Even without direct interaction between some of the participants, there is a disciplinary mechanism through what one researcher called “the perpetual presence of tomorrow.”

The article develops a conceptual framework that aligns task novelty, time duration, and team diversity to temporary organisation forms. For instance, the research suggests that the more novel the task involved, it’s more likely that a stand-alone temporary organisation will be created. The very nature of novelty means that the necessary human and technological resources may not be available from prior situations within a firm. However, if tasks are very time-limited in scope it’s more likely that a hybrid temporary organisation will be formed – thus combining speed of formation with the necessary skills.

We hope this study helps provide a “playbook” that marketers can use to best utilise temporary organisations. This might include an audit of what resources are already embedded in a firm for specific tasks, an assessment of task novelty and time needed for such tasks. The goal is to create a match between task, time, team and temporary organisation form that best promotes the marketing outcome sought – including both decision-making speed and output creativity.