Support is emerging for the assertion that partnering can have a significant beneficial influence on project relationships and project outcomes. However, not all of the evidence bears this out: there are some examples of less-than-successful experiments with partnering approaches. Questions quite naturally arise as to whether any particular elements or aspects of partnering have differed in some of the documented examples, thus giving rise to their relative success or failure. In order to answer such questions there is a need for a theoretical framework against which to analyse the relative performance of partnering projects. In this paper, the authors propose an approach based upon aspects of Transaction Cost Economics (TCE) theory. It is argued that two main factors, contractual incompletedness and opportunism, are fundamental in determining whether project relationships are adversarial or not. The validity of the approach is examined by applying it retrospectively to a strategic partnering agreement involving more than 80 individual building projects. This agreement had been the subject of a four-year study and had been found to produce benefits in a number of areas, not least in the avoidance of conflict and disputes. After analysis, evidence for the reduction of contractual incompletedness was mixed, however the opportunistic inclinations of the participants (specifically, the contractors) were effectively attenuated by a clearly observable combination of factors, which included preselection criteria, and the use of appropriate management and commercial frameworks in which to operate. The case study suggests a prima facie validity to the analytical approach that was adopted, which merits further testing: the next stages being to develop and refine the framework, and to carry out comparative multi-case research on a number of different partnering projects.
|Journal of Construction Procurement
|Published - May 2006