Configurational approaches to theory development in supply chain management: Leveraging underexplored opportunities

David J. Ketchen, Lutz Kaufmann, Craig R. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


In introducing the 2020 Emerging Discourse Incubator, Flynn et al. (2020, urged supply chain scholars to leverage fresh approaches in order to develop supply chain-specific theory, including approaches that are underutilized within the discipline. In response, we explain how more examination of configurations—meaningful sets of observations within a sample—can enhance theory development and, in particular, fuel the construction of supply chain-specific theory. First, we describe the value of configurational theorizing while contrasting it with two more popular approaches: one that centers on linear relationships and one that spotlights the unique features of individual observations. Second, we explain the main configurational approaches available to scholars. Here, we pay special attention to qualitative comparative analysis (QCA)—an approach to configurational theorizing that is relatively new to organizational research. Third, we offer examples of how configurational theorizing via the use of QCA can be used to develop supply chain management theory. Although QCA is employed regularly in neighboring fields, QCA remains something of a conceptual curiosity within supply chain management research. This state of affairs represents an important opportunity because QCA's emphasis on causal complexity fits well with the fact that supply chain outcomes usually arise from an array of variables—often at different levels of analysis—and the interplay among them. Thus, better leveraging configurational theory development can facilitate the creation of novel conceptualizations and useful advice for practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Supply Chain Management
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • configurational theorizing
  • qualitative comparative analysis (QCA)
  • theory development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Marketing


Dive into the research topics of 'Configurational approaches to theory development in supply chain management: Leveraging underexplored opportunities'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this