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Contracts, collaboration and conflict resolution: Forging relationships in the face of adversity

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conference contribution
posted on 09.03.2017 by Eloise Grove, Andrew Dainty, Derek Thomson, Tony Thorpe
Contracts have traditionally been used to coordinate expectations and structure relations, with clients using them to define and manage commercial relationships with suppliers. Whilst extant literature is concerned with large capital projects of a ‘one-off’ nature, this research is concerned with individual contracts within ‘on-going’ strategic infrastructure maintenance programmes. Whereas relational contracting strategies are associated with better client-supplier relations, ‘on-going’ strategic infrastructure maintenance programmes tend not to use such contracts. This presents a problematic contextual backdrop for the successful delivery of such programmes. This research seeks to understand the conditions under which collaborative working arrangements can be achieved within non-collaborative commercial frameworks. An in-depth case study is used to explore collaboration within transactional lump-sum arrangements. The research reveals how the interpretation of a lump-sum contract led to the prioritisation of cost savings over quality and initially stimulated behaviours that inhibited collaboration. However, over time informal working practices and a collaborative working philosophy emerged reminiscent of that expected under relational contracts. Collaboration was established in an informal project culture that ran counter to a persistent adversarial commercial framework. Formal performance measures were resolved and performance appeared satisfactory to the client, even though it was enabled by informal working practices running counter to the client’s chosen contract. Contra much previous work that deterministically positions relationships as a product of the contract, this study reveals that collaborative behaviours can thrive even in unfavourable contractual conditions. This, in turn, calls for a re-theorisation of the relationship between contracts and behaviours within long-term programme arrangements.

History

School

  • Architecture, Building and Civil Engineering

Published in

Proceedings of the Engineering Project Organization Conference

Citation

GROVE, E. ...et al., 2016. Contracts, collaboration and conflict resolution: Forging relationships in the face of adversity. IN: a Kaminsky, J. and Zerjav, V. (eds.) Working Paper Proceedings of the Engineering Project Organization Conference, Cle Elum, WA, 28-30th June.

Publisher

© The Authors

Version

VoR (Version of Record)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date

2016

Notes

This is a conference paper.

Language

en

Location

Cle Elum, WA

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