The (In)effectiveness of Voluntarily Produced Transparency Reports

[We’re pleased to welcome author Christopher Parsons of Rice University. Parsons recently published an article in Business & Society entitled “The (In)effectiveness of Voluntarily Produced Transparency Reports,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Parsons reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

BAS_v50_72ppiRGB_powerpointWhat motivated you to pursue this research?

More and more private companies are voluntarily releasing statistics concerning how often they receive requests for their subscribers’ information, on what grounds the requests are made, and how many subscribers’ data has been disclosed. These statistics are bundled in transparency reports and their release has generally been seen as shedding light on otherwise secretive government activity, be it surveillance practices undertaken by intelligence agencies, by security intelligence agencies, or by law enforcement agencies. I wanted to understand a few things in my course of research: would companies that were not facing intense socio-economic pressures produce voluntary transparency reports that robustly revealed government surveillance practices? How effective are voluntarily produced transparency reports, generally, in shedding light on corporate and government activity? And what might be the impacts of standardizing these sorts of voluntary reports, and how might such standardization come about?

Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?

Countries around the world are grappling with the issue of government access to telecommunications data. The issue has become particularly poignant given revelations of international spying undertaken by Western countries, as well as a range of existing and proposed laws in Europe and North America that would facilitate police and security services’ access to communications information. However, governments have tended to be deeply secretive in how they use existing powers or how they would actually use proposed powers. Private companies’ voluntarily produced transparency reports, which provide statistics and narrative accounts of how often and on what grounds governments request access to companies’ data, act as a novel way of shining a light upon government practice. I was motivated to understand just how much these reports genuinely shed light on government practice and how much they cast shadows over the politics and policies of communications surveillance.

In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?
There is an extensive literature on corporate social responsibility documents and the extent to which those documents make private firms transparent, as well as a literature discussing the importance of rendering government surveillance transparent to the public. What is novel about my research is it explores how private firms’ reports are produced in contravention of state desires or interests and, thus, how transparency reporting can happen outside of situations where the market or government are clamoring for revelations of firm behavior. Core to my findings is that voluntarily produced reports could potentially be standardized to enhance comparability across firms and the reports’ revelatory nature, but that any such standardization may conceal as much about firm behavior as it reveals. Ultimately, this research advances the scholarly and public policy debate over how (in)effective private firms’ reports’ are in advancing the state of knowledge of government surveillance activities versus concealing some aspects of such activities.

 

 

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Case in Point: Managing Inventory to Maximize Profit

2017-10-03 09_46_52-SAGE Knowledge - SAGE Business CasesDo young professionals want robot vacuum cleaners more than they want waffle makers? Catering to young professionals who have little time to cook meals or clean their homes, The Young Professional Dream Company, Inc. sells an array of electronic appliances. As a start-up e-commerce company with a limited budget, it must be careful to stock the most in-demand products for their customers. But how do they determine the right products to order from their suppliers, and how much?

These questions are explored in the case study, The Young Professional Dream Company’s Stochastic Inventory Management Problem, by Wenbo Cai and Layek Abdel-Malek of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Published in SAGE Business Cases, the case examines how the start-up manages its inventory by using data to forcast demand, identifying ordering policies, and evaluating how its contracts with suppliers will impact its profit.

 

Interested in learning more, we interviewed the authors for our Case In Point Series. Read the full interview below.

1. Your case is about a young company’s efforts to procure inventory while sticking to a limited budget. What are some common challenges that arise when start-upsembark on this kind of detailed operations management planning?

Usually start-up companies have known historical data regarding their suppliers’ performance, lead times, and quality. However, they do not know about the demands of their customers and their nature. The problem is then compounded by budget limitation and how to allocate it among the competing products. As a result, when a start-up company embarks on operations management planning, it usually faces many blind spots. Applying operations management techniques could be quite helpful to alleviate some of these challenges.

2. How difficult or risky is it to keep in mind a product’s demand uncertainty when evaluating suppliers and Order Quantity Commitments?

Unlike the common Economic Order Quantity models where the costs of the ordering policy are less sensitive to the order quantities, when the demand is uncertain, the amount ordered affects drastically the profitability of the company. The variance in the demand of a product will have a significant impact on the order quantity even in cases where the average is the same.

3. What are some strategies small start-ups (particularly those with limited money to invest) can apply when negotiating pricing with suppliers?

Start-up companies should negotiate as much flexibility as possible in their contracts which allow for updating their orders during the season, the return of left-overs, low extra charge for expedite deliveries, low minimum order quantities, and ability to pass over one or more of the products on the list.

4. You developed an exercise for this case in which readers are given a hypothetical budget to spend on stock, shipping costs, and more. What’s the benefit of providing decision-making exercises in case studies?

The case we developed goes beyond the single-period stochastic inventory model, which is  often used as a demonstrative strategy in operations management. However, this strategy may need to be modified when companies have a limited budget or other restrictions. We want to highlight some of these issues companies may face in this case study and provide an opportunity for students to discover the rich literature in operations management that discusses these issues in-depth. Moreover, the case study is intended for students to act as decision makers by weighing quantitatively the benefits and costs of flexible contract terms.

5. In your opinion, how does teaching with case studies expose students to the kind of operational dilemmas they might face in their careers?

We think case studies, in general, promote the development of analytical skills by asking students to act as decision makers. Unlike the traditional problems where the real-world challenges have been extracted and synthesized into useful information and the students only need to figure out what methodology to apply, there are no definitive answers of which methodology is the most suitable or guarantees the best performance in case studies. Students have to figure that out by exercising critical thinking, researching, and discussing with group members.

6. Can you share any tips for new instructors using this case in their course?

I believe that it is beneficial to analyze this case in the following steps.

  • Understand the risk of demand uncertainty without the consideration of contract terms. For example: the impact of unsold inventory on the retailer’s profit is relatively easy to compute, but how are companies, both brick-and-mortar retailers and e-commerce companies, handling unsold items in practice?
  • Explore the joint impact of the minimum ordering quantity and penalty. Though the minimum ordering quantity and penalty are given in the case, performing sensitivity analysis will give students insights on the joint impact of the two factors.
  • Investigate the benefit of the expedited-delivery option. In addition to question four in the case (What are the criteria under which you should exercise the expedited-delivery option?), the instructors may want to ask questions pertaining to the supplier’s side. For example: Why would a supplier want to offer flexible contract terms? How expensive is it to provide these options? Is there a win-win situation for both the supplier and the retailer in terms of their expected profitability? Please see the following paper for answers: Cai, W., Abdel-Malek, L., Hoseini, B., & Dehkordi, S. R. (2015). Impact of flexible contracts on the performance of both retailer and supplier.International Journal of Production Economics170, 429-444.

To keep up to date with the latest business cases request a free trial on the home page!

 

 

Is It Better to Govern Managers Via Agency or Stewardship?

[We’re pleased to welcome author Albert E. James of Dalhousie University, Canada. James recently published an article in the Family Business Review entitled “Is It Better to Govern Managers via Agency or Stewardship? Examining Asymmetries by Family Versus Nonfamily Affiliation,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, James reflects on the inspiration for conducting this research:]

fbra_30_2.coverThe research is based upon the first author’s dissertation. It is the result of his effort to understand the many different behaviours and outcomes that he witnessed during his 20-year career working as a non-family employee for various family firms—particularly his desire to understand why and how some families’ businesses seem to be more successful than others. It is also the result of a PhD supervisor’s determination to see her student succeed as an academic and her willingness to let him follow his passion and research questions.

The most challenging aspect of this process has been finding the way to tell the story of the research project. What is published here is the result of many re-writes, iterations, and direction changes. It was challenging to adapt concepts and measures to the particularities of the family business field. And it was challenging to make full use of the reviewers’ and editor’s advice. All in all, though, the challenges were an opportunity for a new academic to learn many things about rigorous research and publishing. Without the patient work, extensive knowledge and leadership of the co-authors, none of the challenges would have been overcome.

One of the study’s most surprising findings is the high level of positive work outcomes exhibited by both the family and non-family managers in the sample. Sometimes family business managers—of either type—are portrayed with at least a hint of negativity. Those in our sample, however, tended to score highly on behaviours and attitudes that are normally considered beneficial to organizations (i.e., job performance, organizational identification and affective commitment). As for the anticipated impact of our research, we hope that it will become known for providing empirical evidence that challenges commonly held assumptions regarding the attitudes and behaviours exhibited by non-family versus family managers and the mechanisms by which each group should be governed.

The advice I would give new scholars is to be willing to re-work the story you wanted to tell to your chosen audience. No matter how interesting you believe your research to be, you have to be willing to find the right way to tell the story. You need to tell the story in a way that fits your audience’s conversations. It is not easy to let go of parts of your research that were highly motivational for you. As hard as it is upon a first read, don’t take the reviewer and editor comments personally. Instead, take your time with the comments, let your reactions cool, and then find the nuggets and gems within them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This research started off as a study of non-family manager turnover intentions and became a story of the governance mechanisms used in family businesses. It is important to keep your eye on your end goal. If you can’t tell the entire story this time around, tell what you can, save the rest, add what you learned from the current round, and mix it into your next project.

Stay up-to-date with the latest research from the Family Business Review and sign up for email alerts today through the homepage!

Join SAGE at AOM 2017 to Provide Your Feedback!

2017_AOM-AttheInterfaceLogoCompsv2_061616The Academy of Management 2017 Annual Meeting is going on now in Atlanta! This year’s theme, Making Organizations Meaningful, is all about interfaces and how they define human interaction. In the present day, mobility and freedom of movement have become traits of our society. The ability for people to go almost anywhere with ease both physically and digitally have changed how society and business interact. How do business engage with these new, changing interfaces and what effect do they have on uniting or dividing people? You can find the full program for this year’s conference, including the scheduled events that will speak to organizational meaningfulness, by clicking here.

If you’re attending AOM, don’t forget to stop by SAGE’s booths, where we’ll have the latest scholarly research from  Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Management, Organization StudiesFamily Business Review, Human Relations and other top-tier SAGE journals, as well as plenty of friendly faces willing to answer all your publishing inquiries. So come by to booths #224, 226, 228, 230!

Whether or not you’ll be able to attend this year’s Academy of Management Annual Meeting, please feel free to peruse the latest from SAGE’s management and business journals represented at AOM:

ASQ_v59n3_Sept2014_cover.inddAdministrative Science Quarterly This top-tier journal regularly publishes the best theoretical and empirical papers based on dissertations and on the evolving and new work of more established scholars, as well as interdisciplinary work in organizational theory, and informative book reviews.

 

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Business & Society
In this fast-growing, ever-changing, and always challenging field of study, BAS is the only peer-reviewed scholarly journal devoted entirely to research, discussion, and analysis on the relationship between business and society.

 

FBR_C1_revised authors color.inddFamily Business Review provides a scholarly platform devoted exclusively to exploration of the dynamics of family-controlled enterprise, including firms ranging in size from the very large to the relatively small. FBR is focused not only the entrepreneurial founding generation, but also on family enterprises in the 2nd and 3rd generation and beyond, including some of the world’s oldest companies.

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Group and Organization Management
publishes a broad range of articles, including data-based research articles, research review reports, evaluation studies, action research reports, and critiques of research. In addition, GOM brings you articles examining a wide range of topics in organizations from an international and cross-cultural perspective.

Human Relations publishes the highest quality original research to advance our understanding of social relationships at and around work. Human Relations encourages strong empirical contributions that develop and extend theory as well as more conceptual papers that integrate, critique and expand existing theory.

 

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The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science JABS is continually breaking ground in its exploration of group dynamics, organization development, and social change, providing scholars the best in research, theory, and methodology, while also informing professionals and their clients.

 

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Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies produces high-quality, peer-reviewed research articles on leadership and organizational studies, focusing in particular on the intersection of these two areas of study.

 

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Journal of Management is committed to publishing scholarly empirical and theoretical research articles that have a high impact on the management field as a whole and cover such field as business strategy and policy, entrepreneurship, human resource management, organizational behavior, organizational theory, and research methods.

JME_72ppiRGB_powerpointJournal of Management Education is dedicated to enhancing teaching and learning in the management and organizational disciplines. JME’s published articles reflect changes and developments in the conceptualization, organization, and practice of management education.

 

JMI_72ppiRGB_powerpointJournal of Management Inquiry is a leading journal for scholars and professionals in management, organizational behavior, strategy, and human resources. JMI explores ideas and builds knowledge in management theory and practice, with a focus on creative, nontraditional research, as well as, key controversies in the field.

Management Learning, the ‘Journal for Critical, Reflexive Scholarship on Organisation and Learning’, publishes original theoretical, empirical and exploratory articles on learning and knowing in management and organizations. Now in its fifth decade of publication, Management Learning continues to provide a unique forum for critical inquiry, innovative ideas and dialogue.

07ORM13_Covers.inddOrganizational Research Methods brings relevant methodological developments to a wide range of researchers in organizational and management studies and promotes a more effective understanding of current and new methodologies and their application in organizational settings.

Organization Studies publishes top quality theoretical and empirical research which promotes the understanding of organizations, organizing and the organized in and between societies. OS is a multidisciplinary journal with global reach, rooted in the social sciences, comparative in outlook and open to paradigmatic plurality. It is included in the Financial Times Top 50 journals list.

Organization is a peer-reviewed journal whose principal aim is to foster dialogue and innovation in studies of organization. The journal addresses a broad spectrum of issues, and a wide range of perspectives, as the foundation for a ‘neo-disciplinary’ organization studies.

Strategic Organization (SO) is devoted to publishing high-quality, peer-reviewed, discipline-grounded conceptual and empirical research of interest to researchers, teachers, students, and practitioners of strategic management and organization.

 

Visit SAGE @ AOM 2017!

2017_AOM-AttheInterfaceLogoCompsv2_061616Today is the first day of the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in Atlanta! This year SAGE is proud to sponsor awards and papers for the following AOM divisions:

  • Gender and Diversity in Organizations (GDO)
  • Management Education and Development (MED)
  • Organizational Behavior (OB)
  • Research Methods (RMD)

SAGE will be answering publishing inquiries and displaying top-tier management journals and books at booths #224, 226, 228, and 230. Come by and visit!

SAGE @ AOM 2017!

2017_AOM-AttheInterfaceLogoCompsv2_061616

This week kicks off the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in Atlanta Georgia. This year’s theme is At the Interface. In introducing the themeCarol T. Kulik, Academy of Management Vice President and Program Chair, had this to say:

Interface:  A common boundary or interconnection between systems, concepts or human beings (Random House Dictionary, 2016)

That definition highlights the dual nature of interfaces. Interfaces establish boundaries that differentiate and separate; they mark a space where insiders can jointly define an organization’s mission, develop an organizational identity, and participate in organizational activities. But interfaces also develop connections that facilitate communication, negotiation, and exchange across organizational boundaries.

Interfaces are increasingly relevant to today’s organizations, as information, people, and other resources cross organizational boundaries at unprecedented rates.  An employee conversation held around the company water cooler today is likely to appear on social media tomorrow.  In the “gig economy,” people may work as employees for only a few short weeks or a handful of quick shifts, moving from one organization to another without fully integrating into any of them.  And even when people are in traditional employment relationships with a single organization, mobile phones and Internet capabilities let them psychologically cross the organizational boundary dozens of times a day.  As traffic at the interface intensifies, how do we distinguish between insiders and outsiders, and identify who has a legitimate stake in influencing organizational missions, decisions, and activities?

Interfaces create “interstitial spaces” in which information, people and resources are situated neither inside nor outside, but somewhere in between. Organizations leverage these interstitial spaces as they develop alumni networks for former employees, encourage family and friend referrals to job openings, ask customers to bag their own groceries, and crowdsource ideas for new products and markets. These activities are designed to benefit the organization, but society might benefit as well. Today’s Grand Challenges (e.g., aging populations, climate change) increasingly demand large-scale multi-perspective strategies.  When the interstitial space is large, organizations may feel greater responsibility to tackle societal issues that are not part of their formal mandate and are unlikely to deliver any immediate benefit to their traditional stakeholders (e.g., employees, customers and investors). But how far can organizations expand their missions before they are rudderless and off course?

Organizations continually redesign their interfaces as they decide which activities they will undertake and which activities will be purchased or contracted out. Organizations form and disband partnerships and alliances, changing the shape of organizational networks. These interface changes affect outcomes ranging from the employment opportunities of individuals to the wealth of nations.  And when the interfaces connecting organizations and networks span national boundaries, new opportunities for organizations to shape (and be shaped by) political and social systems also emerge.  The sheer scale of organizations and interorganizational networks permits organizations to unintentionally and/or deliberately influence governments and societies in ways that are controversial.  How accountable should organizations be for the economic and social consequences of their actions at the interface?

Are you going to be attending AOM this year? If so, make sure to stop by SAGE booths #224, 226, 228, 230! You can speak to SAGE employees about your publishing questions and learn more about SAGE’s management books and journals, including top-tier journals like Journal of ManagementAdministrative Science Quarterly, ILR Reviewand more!

Stay tuned for more information about SAGE at AOM 2017!

Interested in more information about this year’s conference? Click here to view the 2017 program.

Webinar Highlights: Presenting Data Effectively

[The following post is re-blogged from Social Science Space. Click here to view the original article.]


Crystal clear graphs, slides, and reports are valuable – they save an audience’s mental energies, keep a reader engaged, and make you look smart. This webinar held on June 6, 2017, covers the science behind presenting data effectively and will leave viewers with direct, pointed changes that can be immediately administered to significantly increase impact. Guest Stephanie Evergreen also addresses principles of data visualization, report, and slideshow design that support legibility, comprehension, and stick our information in our audience’s brains.

Evergreen’s presentation was followed by an audience question-and-answer session, which is included in the recording. Not all the questions were answered at the time, and Evergreen answers some additional session questions below.

Evergreen is an internationally recognized speaker, designer, and researcher best known for bringing a research-based approach to better communicate through more effective graphs, slides, and reports. She holds a PhD from Western Michigan University in interdisciplinary evaluation, which included a dissertation on the extent of graphic design use in written research reporting. Evergreen has trained researchers worldwide through keynote presentations and workshops, for clients including Time, Verizon, Head Start, American Institutes for Research, Rockefeller Foundation, Brookings Institute, and the United Nations. She is the 2015 recipient of the American Evaluation Association’s Guttentag award, given for notable accomplishments early in a career.

She is co-editor and co-author of two issues of New Directions for Evaluation on data visualization. She writes a popular blog on data presentation at StephanieEvergreen.com. Her books SAGE Publishing books Presenting Data Effectively and Effective Data Visualization both reached No. 1 on Amazon bestseller lists. A second edition of Presenting Data Effectively was published in May.

  1. When is it best to place the data information (e.g. 20 percent) on a bar or lollipop vs. using a scale on the side or bottom of a chart?

If people will want to know the exact value, add the data label. If the overall pattern of the data and estimated values are sufficient, use a scale. But don’t use both – that’s redundant.

  1. How do your clients and colleagues respond to the ‘flipped report,’ in which research findings and conclusions are presented before the discussion, literature, methodology, and background sections?

With a “duh” as in “Why haven’t I thought of that before”? Generally, clients appreciate how a flipped report values their time. On occasion, you and I will find audiences who really bristle at the idea, usually people steeped in the academic culture, so check first if a flipped report structure would be okay.

  1. Any tips for the converted about changing resistant organizational culture to data visualization? “You need to use our template!”

Culture change is slow, so the first tip is to be patient. After that, try remaking one of your own old (bad) slides or graphs to show what an overall would look like. See if you can get a friendly client or customer you know to give you feedback on it. Then report on the redesign and the feedback to others in your organization. Try getting someone from senior management on board. Leave a copy of my book in their mailbox or in the break room. And hang in there.

  1. How do we report small numbers? Without percentages?

I would report small numbers as raw numbers, not percentages. Try an icon array for a visual.

  1. Where is the best place to get report templates?

In your imagination! Any report template is going to look like a report template, not like something that fits your own work. Look around for inspiration, for sure, like on my Pinterest boards, but create your own style that fits you and your work.

  1. What program do you use to create dashboards or infographics? We’ve used Piktocharts…. are there others?

I work within the Microsoft Office suite. I make dashboards in Excel and infographics in PowerPoint. This way I have total control over the design and everyone on my team can make edits. A quick Google search of either dashboard or infographic programs will give you hundreds of choices you could work with. If you want something from that list, look for maximum flexibility, low learning curve, and reasonable expense.

  1. Each chart can have multiple findings; are we skewing the results when we highlight certain findings over others using color and data?

“Skewing” sounds like we are manipulating, but that’s not the case. Using color to highlight a certain part of the graph still leaves the rest of the graph completely intact and able to be seen. Adding color does, however, reflect an interpretation we have made of the data. But that isn’t “skewing” – it’s telling people our point and that’s why they are listening to us in the first place.

  1. Can you please explain the difference between your two books? Thanks!

Sure! Effective Data Visualization walks you through how to choose the right chart type and then how to make it in Excel. Presenting Data Effectively talks about formatting graphs well with consideration of text and color and broadens that discussion to address dashboards, slides, handouts, and reports.

  1. One challenge I face is presenting nuanced findings in an accessible way. For example, when there are limitations to the data or subgroups that need to be acknowledged or findings need to be interpreted with caution. As a researcher, it worries me that the client might put tentative findings “out there”, misrepresenting them (to a degree).

This makes your title and subtitle ever more important. Be very clear in your wording that the findings are limited. You can also add things like confidence intervals to your graph if you are confident that the reader will know how to interpret them. If it is still going to be a concern, don’t make a graph of the data. People are drawn to graphs because we look at pictures so don’t put the data in a picture if you are worried people won’t read the nuanced narrative.