Professional Service Constellations: How Strategies and Capabilities Influence Collaborative Stability and Change

Candace Jones, William S. Hesterly, Karin Fladmoe-Lindquist, Stephen P. Borgatti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Scopus citations


Constellations - alliances among multiple firms - are used to perform complex, customized work in professional service. We examine two tensions inherent in multi-party collaborative work: managing hybrid systems, which are composed of individual and group tasks and outcomes, and aligning partners' logics of action. These two tensions provide firms the strategic choice with emphasizing individual or collective advantage. When constellation members pursue an individualist strategy, they employ an entrepreneurial logic. Constellations are a vehicle for honing their firm-distinctive expertise and enhancing their own opportunities. Given these firms' need for exposure to new learning and new markets from different partners and clients, the stability of the constellation is not of primary importance. This strategy promotes membership shifts in constellations and requires governance mechanisms for coordinating interactions among relative strangers. When constellation members pursue a collectivist strategy, they focus on their mutual benefits and employ a relational logic. Given these firms' need for intensifying relations with partners and clients, constellation members restrict interactions to certain select partners and clients and intensify their interactions. This strategy promotes stability in constellation membership and allows governance mechanisms specific to partners to develop. Due to positive feedback, these strategies develop certain capabilities and create specific relational patterns, which reinforce prior choices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-410
Number of pages15
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1998


  • Multi-partner Strategic Alliances
  • Organizational Change
  • Professional Services
  • Resource-based View

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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