How firms (partially) organize their environment : Meta-organizations in the oil and gas industry

In this paper, we investigate how firms collectively organize their environment. Past literature mostly focused on networks and institutions and has overlooked the role of meta-organizations in this process. Based on the case study of the oil and gas industry, we develop an abductive grounded theory model of meta-organizations as collective partial organizations. Our study shows that firms –complete organizations –organize their environment through the setting up of many meta-organizations –partial and thin organizations, which leads to a growing organizational complexity. This complexity results from the organizational creativity of firms when they are confronted to three decision situations. Finally, we highlight the importance of membership in MOs, analyze the various implications of its completeness or incompleteness for legitimacy, and discuss the emergent concept of outreach strategies which we argue to be central for thin organizations