Organizational Culture, Business-to-Business Relationships, and Interfirm Networks: Volume 16

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Table of contents

(14 chapters)
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This paper offers a set of introductory propositions of associations among organizational culture, firm actions and outcomes, business-to-business (B2B) relationships, and interfirm networks. This paper briefly introduces the eight main papers in this volume and describes the unique and valuable contribution each makes to the business marketing and purchasing literature. Hopefully your reading of this volume will provide the same take-away conclusion as my own: the papers come together to provide rich and provocative propositions and findings about how participants in B2B relationships interact and make sense of worlds.

On the basis of research from Dutch bank an empirical framework, this report describes how discourses of organizational culture imply a perceived relationship to performance. The study includes an ethno-methodology of 25 in-depth interviews with two groups includes managers and employees from the Services Business Unit of a global Dutch bank. Results from managers reveal discourses of organizational culture provide a negative perceived relationship to performance. Results from employees show discourses of organizational culture provide a positive perceived relationship to performance.

This paper reports the results of a three-year-long research on business relationships, relying on qualitative data gathered through multiple-case study research of four focal companies operating in Australia. The industry settings are as follows: steel construction, vegetable oils trading, aluminum and steel can manufacture, and imaging solutions. The research analyzes two main aspects of relationships: structure and process. This paper deals with structure describing it by the most desired features of intercompany relationships for each focal company. The primary research data have been coded drawing on extant research into business relationships. The main outcome of this part of the research is a five construct model composed by trust, commitment, bonds, distance, and information sharing that accounts for all informants’ utterances about relationship structure.

Relationships are socially constructed by companies in interaction. This study explains the dynamic character of business-to-business relationships with the aid of rules theory, a theory borrowed from the communications field. Two forms of rules are identified: constitutive rules guide the interpretation of the other's acts, and regulative rules guide the appropriate response to the interpreted act. Rules theory asserts that companies act as if applying these rules. Relationships provide not only the context in which the parties’ acts are performed but are also the result of such acts. Thus, relationships are potentially reshaped each time one party performs an act and the other party gives meaning to that act and reacts.

This paper describes a practical method to study structure and dynamics of business relationships by applying the findings that the previous two papers outline. The focus is to provide managers with suitable tools that improve their ability to understand and manage business relationships. The paper provides templates of figures and tables, as well as instructions on how to use them to facilitate describing structure of relationships. Relationship structure is based on five multidimensional constructs composed of trust, commitment, bonds, information sharing, and distance and dynamics of relationships based on rules of meaning and action, which are called constitutive and regulative rules.

This study examines organizational innovation in small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and develops an extensive framework of how innovation occurs, its end results in terms of positive, negative outcomes, and its impacts on business financial performance; using grounded methodology; interviews with entrepreneurs and executive experts from across industries. The study aims to fill gaps in the literature. Despite extensive research conducted on innovation, most focus on factors behind innovation and a company's innovativeness. The framework is useful to SMEs considering company-wide innovation. Transparent inputs and outputs enable companies to understand innovation processes, and its outcomes better as well as help monitor and implement individual innovation activities. The framework has a wide application, particularly, in an industry where innovation is hard to capture and understand. Using the model, we can determine innovation drivers, practices, and barriers as well as innovation inputs/outputs in different industries, thus promoting better management of innovation across a wide range of applications. Governments also require a better understanding of innovation, productivity, and operational efficiency to plan their policies in the promotion of innovation.

Markets-as-networks (MAN) theorists contend, at least tacitly, the significance of business relationships to the firm – that is, business relationships contribute somewhat to corporate survival or growth. One does not deny the existence of significant business relationships but sustain, in contrast to the consensus within the MAN theory, that relationship significance should not be a self-evident assumption. For significance cannot be a taken-for-granted property of each and every one of the firm's business relationships. The authors adopt explicitly a critical realist meta-theoretical position in this conceptual paper and claim that relationship significance is an event of the business world, whose causes remain yet largely unidentified. Where the powers and liabilities of business relationships (i.e., relationship functions and dysfunctions) are put to work, inevitably under certain contingencies (namely the surrounding networks and markets), relationship effects ensue for the firm (often benefits in excess of sacrifices, i.e., relationship value) and as a consequence relationship significance is likely to be brought about. In addition, relationship significance can result from the dual impact that business relationships may have on the structure and powers and liabilities of the firm, that is, on corporate nature and scope, respectively.

This paper exposes the development of markets-as-networks theory from formal inception in the mid-1970s until 2010 state-of-the-art, en route presenting its historical roots. This largely European-based theory challenges the conventional, dichotomous view of the business world as including firms and markets, arguing for the existence of relational governance structures (the so-called “interfirm cooperation”) in addition to hierarchical and transactional ones.

No scholar or researcher is able to provide robust evidence that counters the scant reflection on metatheory – mostly ontology and epistemology – underlying management studies in general, and industrial marketing and purchasing research in particular. This paper is a contribution to the indispensable discussion of metatheoretical alternatives in research, and most importantly, the strengths and shortcomings thereof, and respective implications on research questions, objectives, and findings.

DOI
10.1108/S1069-0964(2010)16
Publication date
Book series
Advances in Business Marketing and Purchasing
Editor
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-0-85724-306-5
eISBN
978-0-85724-306-5
Book series ISSN
1069-0964