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Managing across organisational and cultural boundaries

This module is about collaboration – working, managing and organising across organisational and cultural boundaries. Whether within or across organisations, via partnerships, joint ventures and alliances, collaboration can be both stimulating and rewarding. It entails the combination of resources and expertise  which enables partners to achieve something jointly that they cannot achieve working alone. However, collaboration is also fraught with difficulties and dilemmas. In this module you’ll explore the many issues and challenges associated with working collaboratively across different contexts. You will also learn about concepts and theories that can help you to better manage collaborative situations in the future.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
Study level
Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

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What you will study

This module makes a broad distinction between organisational, inter-organisational and international contexts. You will explore what is involved in collaborating effectively within and across such different contexts.

There are five study themes throughout this module, all of which are central to understanding how different individuals perceive and experience the different contexts in which they work. The themes are:

  • managing aims
  • power, politics and trust
  • cultural diversity
  • international management perspectives
  • the darker side of collaborative arrangements.

The module has seven units: an introductory unit;  a unit on each of the five themes; and a final unit that provides a means of reflection and consolidation of the entire module.

The module gives you opportunities to learn from a whole variety of different resources including reading articles, studying case material, watching short videos, listening to audio clips and using other online media. Your learning will be structured through and around activities. These will involve you exploring your own situation, being introduced to that of other students on the module and critically analysing and applying relevant theory. You will study some of the material independently and some of it collaboratively with other students through participation in online forums, audio conferencing sessions and a collaborative wiki. (For the collaborative wiki you'll work jointly with 3-5 other students for each of Units 2 to 5, and this work will form part of the assessment.) This will ensure that you experience a level of collaboration and exposure to different contexts; different cultures; different ways of experiencing them; different ways of managing and being managed in them; and different interpretations of key themes.

By the end of the module, you should be able to interpret individuals’ experiences and perceptions – including your own – of different intra-/inter-organisational and international contexts that in turn should enable you to engage effectively with others across such different contexts. Through the exposure of module theories and concepts, you should be able to engage more effectively with a range of key challenges and issues in the workplace.

Unit 1: Working in organisational, inter-organisational and international contexts
In this introductory unit you will look at different contexts in which work, organisation and management take place and how these different contexts affect individuals’ perceptions and experience of working in them. There is a particular focus on collaboration and you will begin to identify some of the issues that need to be carefully managed if individuals are to collaborate effectively across organisational and cultural boundaries. You will be introduced to the theory of collaborative advantage which underpins the design of the module and which you will use to explore many of the challenges associated with collaboration in and across different contexts.

Unit 2: Managing aims
In this unit you will be studying aims at different levels – the individual, organisational and collaboration level. Through reflecting on your own experiences and that of other students and through analysing and applying theory, you will identify issues and challenges pertaining to the management of aims within and across different contexts. You will explore the role of aims as a motivator for individuals’ actions and behaviours; learn about advantages and difficulties associated with goal setting in organisations; the cultural influence on the aims that business leaders pursue; and the sheer ambiguity and complexity of aims in collaborative contexts.

Unit 3: Organisational power, politics and trust
Unit 3 focuses on the three interrelated themes of power, politics and trust. Through critical evaluation of relevant theories (such as those by Machiavelli, Lukes and Foucault on power and politics) and reflection on personal experiences, you will explore the importance of power, politics and trust in organisational interactions between individuals, teams and organisations in and across different contexts.

Unit 4: Cultural diversity
In Unit 4 you will be studying culture and how it is used as a concept to describe and explain the behaviour and actions of individuals within their context, be it an organisation, a nation, a region or a profession. You will discuss how culture impacts on individuals’ actions and behaviours within and across organisations and ultimately how this affects what organisations are attempting to do.

Unit 5: International management perspectives
In this unit you will study international management perspectives on different contexts relating to individuals, organisations and collaborations. You will focus, in particular, on the growth, nature and diversity of international collaboration in the context of globalisation. You will be introduced to a number of cases that show how collaboration can be different in the international context. You will therefore learn about the international context of collaborations and the kinds of implications they entail for both organisations and managers.

Unit 6: The darker side of collaborative arrangements
Corruption, politics, whistle-blowing, conflict and failures are covered in this unit on the darker side of collaboration. You will examine signs and symptoms of organisational problems and be introduced to ways of recognising problems in collaborative settings. You will explore cases of failed collaborations (such as the failure to work collaboratively in the wake of hurricane Katrina and the corruption surrounding Ikea’s entry into Russia), look at ways of tackling problems, and learn about strategies that individuals can pursue to help surface or resolve problems.

Unit 7: Paradoxes, tensions and dialectics
In the final unit, you will reflect on your learning journey throughout the module and consider how you can carry on using what you have learnt in future collaborative contexts. You will be introduced to concepts and theories that can help you address collaboration in practice. This will focus particularly on the ways in which tensions, paradoxes and dialectics can support your understanding about how to make things happen in collaborative contexts.

You will learn

After studying this module you should have a good understanding of:

  • themes pertinent to organising and managing within and between organisational and international contexts
  • issues pertinent to different organisational actors and stakeholders including aims, power and politics; cultural diversity; international diversity and the darker side of collaborating.

You should be able to:

  • synthesise, critically evaluate and challenge existing knowledge of inter-organisational relations (IOR) and organisational behaviour (OB)
  • identify and critically assess different perspectives on managing and organising
  • use conceptual frameworks to describe functions of organising and managing in and across organisational and international contexts
  • critically evaluate theories in relation to personal experiences, organisational, inter-organisational and international setting with which you are familiar and the relative standpoints of others within different contexts
  • articulate ideas and communicate effectively using appropriate IOR and OB concepts to specialist and non-specialist audiences.

Outside the UK

This module has a very strong international and cross-cultural flavour and will appeal to anyone, both in and outside the UK, who wants to explore the core themes of managing aims; power, politics and trust; cultural diversity; international management; and the darker side of collaborating.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study material and mark and comment of your written work, and who you can ask for advice and guidance on your academic study. We will also offer group tutorials (either face to face or online) or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. Online tutorials allow you to talk in real time to your tutor or other students over the internet, and include additional features such as an interactive whiteboard and the ability to share web pages.

Where tutorials are held depends on the distribution of students taking each module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

Managing across organisational and cultural boundaries starts once a year – in April. This page describes the module that will start in April 2019 when we expect it to start for the last time.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Course work includes:

    3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
    No residential school

    Course satisfaction survey

    See the satisfaction survey results for this course.

    Entry requirements

    This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from previous studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject.

    Managing across organisational and cultural boundaries is relevant for anyone interested in aspects of organisational behaviour and inter-organisational relations.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


    Start End England fee Register
    06 Apr 2019 Sep 2019 £1464.00

    Registration closes 14/03/19 (places subject to availability)

    April 2019 is the final start date for this course. For more information, see Future availability.

    Additional Costs

    Study costs

    There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

    If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

    Ways to pay for this module

    Open University Student Budget Account

    The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

    You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

    • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
    • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

    Joint loan applications

    If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

    As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

    Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

    Employer sponsorship

    Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

    More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

    • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
    • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

    Credit/debit card

    You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

    We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

    Mixed payments

    We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

    For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time convenient to you.

    Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2019. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

    This information was provided on 14/12/2018.

    What's included

    The main study material, in weekly texts including extra resources and activity material, is provided online. A module text, module reader, and a module study guide are provided in print by post.

    You will need

    You will need a headset with a microphone and earphones if you wish to take part in online tutorials.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module.  Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • macOS 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To participate in our online-discussion area you will need both a microphone and speakers/headphones. 

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students. 

    If you have a disability

    The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying B325 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

    To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our Disability support website.