This thesis addresses practices for providing professional services across borders. I use practice theories as my main theoretical perspective. These theories see practices as a set of organized activities involving interdependent humans, modifying their responses as they interact . Research on professional service firms has identified the coordination problem, which suggests that it is difficult to provide integrated professional services by professionals located at different geographical locations. The reason for this difficulty is the need for interaction, which necessitates closeness and co-location. In this thesis, I examine this problem, and my research question is: How are cross-border professional services coordinated through practices?
My main findings include the identification of cross border services and the transnational practices enabling the service performance. My research shows that many professional services are provided jointly by professionals in different locations, coordinated through a particular kind of social practice, which I identify as transnational practices. Transnational practices incorporate both global structures and many local practices. I find that the performance of transnational practices rely on formal arrangements such as existing organizational structures, formal routines and information and communication technologies, the knowing of professionals, shared understandings and informal networking. These findings are based on studies in two professional service firms rendering cross-border engineering services.
By focusing on the practices for service provision cross borders, I contribute practice theories, professional service firms theorizing, the communities of practices and the strategy-as-practice perspectives. My contribution to practice theories is the understanding of knowing. Knowing is related to the commonality among practice theorists emphasizing that human activity rests on something nonpropositional that cannot be put into words. I find that knowing is situated in practice, with differing emphasis on how, who, what and where/when, which is not yet taking into account in the existing theoretical discussions on practices. The main contribution to professional service firm theorizing is that services are provided transnationally through practices and how smooth provisions of services are provided to customers regardless of location. The contribution to the communities of practice perspective is identifying the situated practices of work-sharing and knowledge-sharing, exposing that communities of practices are an umbrella concept with differing emphasis on formal and informal participation. The contributions to the strategy-as-practice perspective are that parallel strategies are involved to provide different types of services and that strategy is simultaneously realized, modified and developed, through distributed activity.
The thesis consists of four papers. In the first paper, I discuss the concept of transnational practices. The second paper discovers one informal and one formal community of dispersed practitioners, called communities of tasks and communities of learning. The third paper uncovers three types of transnational practices in relation to organizing and strategizing, taking as a starting point conditions that facilitate everyday practices into becoming strategic. The fourth paper explores temporal and spatial dimensions of transnational practices.