Edited by Gary L. Lilien and Rajdeep Grewal
Chapter 19: Strategic Alliances in a Business-to-Business Environment
Robert E. Spekman Twenty-five years ago, in my first published paper on collaboration (Spekman and Strauss 1986), we sought to clarify the nature of interdependent buyer–seller relationships from the point of view of resource dependency (Pfeffer and Salancik 1978) and transaction cost economics (Williamson 1985). Building on notions of transaction-specific investments (TSI), uncertainty and product importance, we argued that greater collaboration would be associated with greater TSI, more uncertainty and greater product importance. Our findings suggested that though opportunism can result in abuses, closer ties and non-standard relationships might smooth production and decrease market inefficiencies. In a Journal of Marketing piece two years later (Frazier et al. 1988), we established the notion of just-in-time (JIT) exchanges, in which suppliers are required to deliver precisely what is needed by the buyer according to quality, quantity and time specifications set by the contract, and the elimination of waste creates a presumption of zero defects. These two publications identified both why these interdependent organizational forms were worth considering and what might derail them. Most alliance research at the time acknowledged not only the advantages of interdependence but also its darker side: the potential of closer ties to breed opportunism. In the early 1990s, books by Lewis (1990), Harrigan (1986), Lynch (1989) and others began to espouse the use of alliances as a better way to manage relationships among firms. Mostly taking normative views, the books attempted to show how to build an alliance mind-set. Long on anecdotal evidence but short on theory,...
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