Most scholars would agree that the mission of science is to answer questions that matter the most to society. Yet, practical relevance of Operations Management (OM) research has been a persistent concern of academics in the field. This has produced an ongoing discussion of how the gap between theory and practice could be bridged, with methodological ramifications of proposed solutions causing tensions in the field. Design science (DS) has emerged as a promising solution to the relevance problem, and is currently establishing itself in the field of OM. While DS has recently been acknowledged as a legitimate research strategy in OM, its novelty predicts an upcoming methodological debate. The aim of this dissertation is to propose a foundation for this debate, which would guide the methodological development of DS in OM in a direction that effectively bridges the relevance gap. The main thesis being that the methodological debate should be based on and built around design maturity. This dissertation is a methodological compilation of four research papers, each of which reports an OM DS study, with designs of varying maturity. The studies use an array of methods ranging from simulation and quantitative analysis of operational data, to semi-structured interviews and participant observation. Based on the studies I propose a conceptualization of design maturity, and discuss knowledge creation and extraction at different stages of design maturity. In addition to the main thesis that the forthcoming methodological debate in OM should be built around design maturity, I posit that for DS in OM: (1) differentiating and explicating the relationship (interfaces) between design and context is crucial. (2) Methods should be evaluated based on their ability to produce understanding of the context. (3) Designer self-reflection should be an integral part of research communication. While the work compiled in this dissertation has had a real and practical impact on the studied contexts, general practical implications are indirect. These implications rest on the expectation that the results contribute to the emergence of a methodologically coherent stream of DS research in OM. Over time, this is expected to bridge the gap between practice and theory, securing the relevance and increasing the impact of future OM research.
|Doctor of Philosophy
|Published - 2019
|MoE publication type
|G5 Doctoral dissertation (article)