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Collective professional identity in the implementation of collaborative strategy : a case study from Scottish community addiction teams

Zhang, Y. and Keenan, P. (2008) Collective professional identity in the implementation of collaborative strategy : a case study from Scottish community addiction teams. In: 24th Conference of European Group for Organizational Studies, Sub-theme 36: Identity Work in Organizations Track, 2008-07-10 - 2008-07-12.

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This paper examines the discursive construction of collective professional identity (CPI) among different professional groups (i.e. nurses and social care workers) involved in the implementation of a collaborative strategy. We use the term CPI in order to distinguish these professional groups from other social and organizational categories (e.g. top management teams, middle managers, operational workers). The notion of CPI arises from Hardy, Lawrence & Grant's (2005: p62) approach of collective identity which is viewed as 'a discursive object' produced and/or reproduced by members in 'talk and other forms of text' to manifest their belongingness to a social category (e.g. group and organization). This categorization of collective identity can become problematic when members from different professional groups are assigned to work collaboratively (Beech & Huxham, 2003; Maguire & Hardy, 2005), in a new organizational context (Salk, 1996; Vaara, 2001; Wondeolleck, Gray & Bryan, 2003). In-group preferences and out-group discrimination can be formed between different professional group members in the collaboration process which may lead to collaborative inertia (Huxham and Vangen, 2005). Therefore, it is crucial to examine how professional members conceptualize their collective identity which is developed from the collaboration with their partners (Maguire & Hardy, 2005; Hardy et al., 2005). CPI has recently received increased attention from researchers in collaboration studies. For example, Wondolleck et al. (2003) explored how the characterization of CPI enhanced and diminished conflict between collaborating parties in collaborative practice. Maguire & Hardy (2005) examined CPI of management teams who were referred to as „champions‟ in the collaborative strategy making process within the Canadian HIV/AIDS treatment domain. However, little research has been conducted to examine the CPI of front-line professional workers in the implementation of collaborative strategy. This study focuses on the CPI of front-line professional workers outside of top management teams, as they play a critical role in implementing collaborative strategies and achieving collaborative advantage (Huxham & Vangen, 2005).