This paper aims to advance understanding of the role of informal controls for governing day-to-day interactions in the execution phase of interfirm collaborations. It explores the nature of these informal controls and how they are used by the firm’s partners during this phase.
In-depth case study of a lateral relationship between a car manufacturer and its suppliers, based on interviews, observations and archival material, and using concepts from the field of psychology.
The results reveal an interfirm collaboration in which the supplier, in particular, relies on so-called informal interpersonal controls for micro-contracting and solving the control problems of its day-to-day interactions. Specifically, the study finds that the collaboration partners rely on interpersonal influence tactics for influencing behavior, coordinating the activities of the collaboration partners, and mitigating collaborative risks. Depending on the specific individual, in terms of, for example, their “mood”, and the contingencies of the explicit interaction, such as contradicting flanking contractual agreements, the actors engage in different activities, including ingratiation, pressure or rational persuasion.
This study illuminates the role of informal controls in interfirm settings by distinguishing analytically between interpersonal and interorganizational informal controls. By mobilizing the psychological concepts of interpersonal influence tactics, the extant research in this field is complemented through the illustration of how the actors use informal control mechanisms, depending on their corresponding counterpart, and the specific situation of the interaction. The findings thereby highlight the situated nature of governance, suggesting that governance between collaboration partners is not a static condition, rather an ongoing process in which the actors use, and alternate between, distinct tactics in their daily interactions.
This paper is, in part, based on the first author’s doctoral thesis. The authors thank Mikael Cäker and participants of the research seminar at the University of Innsbruck for their constructive feedback. Additionally, the authors are grateful for the case firms’ willingness to participate in the research project and the firms’ employees for so generously spending their time and taking us with them. Finally, they gratefully thank the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation for their financial support.
Grunwald-Delitz, S., Strauss, E. and Weber, J. (2019), "Governing day-to-day interactions in the execution phase of an interfirm collaboration: The role of informal controls", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 306-341. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRAM-02-2018-0014
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