Permeable Boundaries Between German Federal Police and Airport Operating Company?
Organizational theories have developed different concepts on cooperation between organizations namely markets, networks, partial organizations and sometimes meta-organizations. All these concepts maintain different ideas of organizational boundaries. Based on these differences we want to discuss our empirical research on airport-security and argue that the concepts mentioned above are insufficient to describe the structure of interorganizational cooperation.
Our empirical research at four German Airports showed that the operating organizations (in particular German Federal Police and the airport-operating companies) are exposed to contradictory expectations regarding the cooperation across their boundaries. On the one hand, the legislative understands the airport as labor-differentiated unity, on the other hand responsibilities and accountabilities are attributed to several individual organizations. We can observe that boundaries seem to become more open and are to be strengthened at the same time. This finding challenges established ideas of organizational boundaries.
An in-depth analysis reveals five dimensions of boundary relations. First, customers and other agents perceive the airport as a single unit ignoring the boundaries between different organizations. Second, the Aviation Security Act leads to the fragmentation of operational processes at the airport. Third, the translation of law into organizational programs changes accountabilities and consequently clearing and stabilizing organizational boundaries. Fourth, through collaboration in joint meetings and informal contacts the permeability of organizational boundaries increases. Nevertheless in some cases informal contacts between employees of different organizations are restricted. Fifth, in case of conflict, all parties either draw back on law as a media of communication or refer to a higher level of organizational hierarchy, in both cases emphasizing the limitations set by their organizational boundaries.