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Clear strategy enhances legitimacy building in a whole supply network

A carefully considered strategy is the key for organizational networks to build legitimacy, which refers to a generalized perception that their actions are desirable and appropriate. The doctoral dissertation of Anu Suominen presents a new framework for building legitimacy in a whole supply network.
Photo: Tarmo Malinen
Photo: Tarmo Malinen

In the networked society of the future, organizations form more and more intentionally created networks. These so-called ‘whole networks’ are goal-oriented and have their own identity and collective actions. The legitimacy of the network, which refers to the generalized perception that the network’s actions, activities, and structure are desirable and appropriate, is essential for the organizations’ willingness to work together and share resources.

In her doctoral dissertation, Anu Suominen analyzes an intentionally formed maritime network of over 20 organizations during its formation phase. She developed a framework for network management, which supports the network’s legitimacy-building process.

“The expanding network economy demands new models that are particularly created for network management,” Suominen says.

Her research shows that the definition and communication of strategic goals has a major impact on building legitimacy within a whole network. The goal or goals provide the guidelines for the structure, interaction and identity of the network. 

“Networks are more complex entities than single organizations. Therefore their strategic goals may be multiple, overlapping and asynchronous. What is pivotal for managing intentionally formed networks is the clarification of the goals,” Suominen describes.

Several factors contribute to the process of building legitimacy within a network in the formation phase. For example, network projects are sometimes supported with public funding, but the terms of funding may steer the strategy of the network, for example, towards joint R&D.

Suominen combined her research results into a network legitimacy-building framework, which includes the pre-network and network formation phases. Network leaders can use this framework as a road map for managing the intentionally created network to clarify the readiness for networking.

“Even in networking, it makes sense to invest scarce resources sensibly, as it promotes the vital network economy that is essential for the competitiveness of our society,” Suominen concludes.

Public defence of a doctoral dissertation on Friday, 13 October 2017

The doctoral thesis of MSc Anu Suominen in the field of Industrial Engineering and Management titled ‘Legitimacy Building in a Whole Supply Network during its Formation Phase’ will be publicly examined in in the Faculty of Business and Built Environment at Tampere University of Technology (TUT) in the auditorium 125 in the University Consortium of Pori (address: Pohjoisranta 11, Pori, Finland) on Friday, 13 October 2017 at 12:00.

The opponent is Professor Anne Haugen Gausdal of the University College of Southeast Norway. Professor Marko Seppänen of the Laboratory of Industrial and Information Management at TUT will act as Chairman.

Anu Suominen (45) lives in Eura, Finland, and currently works as a university teacher and researcher in the Business Ecosystems, Networks and Innovations (BENI) research group at TUT.

The doctoral dissertation is available online at: http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-15-3995-4

Further information: Anu Suominen, tel. +358 50 300 6108,

News submitted by: Sanna Kähkönen
News updated by: Anna Naukkarinen
Keywords: science and research, industrial and information management