Partnering - going ahead or turning back
Abstract. Here you need to provide a concise summary of your study - the topic, what information you found, and what conclusions you drew. It needs to be written for the non-specialist (ie someone from another profession or discipline) and should make them want to read the whole piece - it is a way of marketing your own work. The Abstract should never be more than 150 words.
Key Words: Partnering, Collaboration, PPP, Macroeconomics, Recession
This theoretical comprehensive study project evaluates the concept of partnering and critiques the reasons given by the construction industry as to its reluctance to embrace partnering more extensively. This reluctance has been mentioned by Briscoe and Dainty (2005) and previously by Akintoye and Black (1999). This is for a number of reasons which will be explored in depth and will be revealed by using appropriate theory and practical reasons given by the industry to provide a context and then to expand and illustrate the arguments for and against partnering.
The importance of partnering and its definition has been advocated by Latham (1994) and Egan (1998, p.9) as involving “two or more organisations working together to improve performance through agreeing mutual objectives, devising a way for resolving any disputes and committing themselves to continuous improvement, measuring progress and sharing the gains”.
Increasingly changing markets, globalisation, new technologies and new business strategies have all emerged and further developed since Latham and Egan accentuated the need for the construction industry to adapt and innovate to meet increasing client expectations (Constructing Excellence, 2003). Many of the industry reports from Latham all the way up to the very recent and suitably titled ‘Never Waste a Good Crisis' report, prepared by the Constructing Excellence team, (henceforth referred to as the Wolstenholme report) emphasise amongst other issues, the importance of collaboration in the construction industry.
The recent Wolstenholme report, interviewed one thousand companies about their opinion on the rethinking construction report of Egan. It found that over half thought that the benefits of partnering were ‘patchy'. The report also claims that the commitment to collaboration was only skin-deep (Wolstenholme 2009, p.8), however, parts of the “public sector has made some significant moves in the right direction” (Wolstenholme, p.13).
Partnering has been seen as a way of “tackling fragmentation and lack of integration that has bedevilled attempts to improve project performance over the years” (Thurairajah et al 2008, p1587). Despite the interest paid to partnering in the industry over the years, “prescriptive approaches tend to dominate the field and there is a dearth of critically informed work that attempts to understand the problems and limitations of partnering in practice” (Bresnen 2007, p.365).
Partnering has been tactically approached as ‘one-off' project partnering, and as a strategy to increase repeat business, referred to as strategic partnering. This ‘tactic' has been displayed in practice by many companies, one of them being Taylor Woodrow who have been partnering with one of their M & E specialist from the beginning (Building, 2007). It concerns itself with moving away from open competition and moving towards a more co-operative strategy. However, this probably does not enunciate that the co-operation is balanced or even equal. It may be because the desire for greater value by clients and the desire for greater profitability by contractors are not mutually agreed aims.
Accordingly, this study will elaborate that if Egan's definition of partnering is taken into consideration then in contrast, a traditional approach to procurement, where those on a pre-qualified list of contractors are invited to bid and the lowest bid often wins, in this approach, often the delivery of the contract becomes a competition between the client and contractor as opposed to a collaboration with mutual benefits. For these types of adversarial contracts the one who wins is either the client or contractor that most tactfully defends their stance. Such protective ploys are often at the detriment of value, quality, innovation and fair risk allocation and reward. In these contracts, profit is obtained by means of conflict, not value; performance is created by threat; not co-operation.
It was because of this context that the researcher was inspired to produce a much needed study on the reasons why the industry is disinclined to embrace collaborative working. It is anticipated that this brief study will be a foundation for further detailed research to be carried out by the industry, which will have the intention of improving and eventually minimising - if not removing, the adversarial culture of the industry and encouraging the use of partnering and other forms of collaboration more widely.
The importance of this concise paper lies in attempting to determine what makes partnering work in practice from the industry's perspective and how successes can be replicated or integrated for use by other organisations and companies. The extent of this report is limited to that which affects the subject. Therefore collaborative working in general is considered – partnering and the current recessionary climate is included, but specific items such as PPP of which PFI is a part of, are not, as each of these could form a study project all by themselves although they are all considered types of collaborative working. A Public Private Partnership is any mutual venture between a public body and a private corporation to work in collaboration on a variety of projects. A Public Finance Initiative is one form of PPP and is about the procurement of services that are delivered. Furthermore, the concept of partnering is investigated in general and includes all parties from the chief officers and procurement advisors, right through to the subcontractors and suppliers (SCM). Hence when the term party is mentioned it refers to anyone who is involved in the partnering i.e. client, main contractor, sub contractor, etc.
McCabe (2010) who has studied past recessions, suggested during a radio broadcasted interview, that despite signs that the recession is abating in some parts of the UK industries, the construction industry in 2010, will still be difficult especially if public sector work decreases (Building, 2009, The Independent 2010). So are Egan's oft quoted words going to hit home; “every crisis is an opportunity,” or are firms ready to misconstrue this and return to competitive tendering? This is the view of Petch (2009, p1) who states that there may even be signs of a drifting away from partnering in favour of lump sum contracts and with tender prices continuing to drop at a progressively accelerating pace, organisations are being tempted more than ever to take benefit of low price deals at the expense of existing partnership charters.
Aims and objectives
The research available in writing this paper has the potential to distribute in many ways, as procurement in relation to construction has various areas that could be researched. Given the researcher's interest in collaborative methods used in the industry, the main aim of this study is to critique the concept of partnering and analyse the reasons given in practice for the reluctance of the construction industry to embrace partnering more extensively.
This will be achieved through the following objectives:
- Outline a brief history of partnering and its emergence
- Evaluate and analyse the theory behind partnering
- Evaluate and analyse potential detriments due to the current macroeconomic circumstances on partnering
- Outline the arguments given by those who are for and against partnering and explain if theory is being applied
The aim and objectives for this research were met by using a combination of primary and secondary sources. Furthermore, due to the nature of the information, qualitative research was applied throughout the study, instead of quantitative research. These terms should first be elaborated on further, so that a background is achieved that will substantiate the methods employed.
Primary data refers to original information that has never been collected before whilst secondary data is data “already put together by somebody else, but re-used probably in a different way” (Blaxter et al, 2006, p.153). This can be advantageous to use as “there is no doubt that it (secondary data) is an invaluable methodological tool” (Blaxter et al, p.168). This means that the researcher has the opportunity to gain both substantive and methodological insights not to mention the benefits of cost savings in minimising collating of primary data as well as alleviating time restrictions. No doubt, ‘re-using data in a different way' could cause problems if the original work has been misunderstood, subjected to criticism by peers or there is a “lack of credentials” (Heaton 2004, p.27). Consequently, the function of secondary data, the basis for its collection as well as its reliability needs to be considered.
To explain what is meant by qualitative and quantitative data; Blaxter et al, (p.64) describe qualitative research as being “concerned with collecting and analysing information in as many forms, chiefly non-numeric, as possible”. It aims to analyse instances which are perceived as interesting and thought provoking. Grinnell and Unrau (2008, p.94) state that it aims to “answer research questions that provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of a problem from an intensive study of a few people,” instead of just accepting the quantitative answers.
On the other hand, quantitative data was not suitable for this study because it is “where the data is in the form of numbers” (Punch 2005, in Blaxter et al, p.64). This unsuitability can be understood by considering two of the objectives as examples, the quantity of arguments bought by those who are for or against partnering or how many times partnering helps to provide a win:win situation is unimportant to this study, what matters is what the arguments mean to the parties concerned and what methods parties can use to gain a win:win situation. From the perspective of methodology, the data has to be fit for purpose. Accordingly, this study does not just list the factors but attempts to analyse what the factors mean and what they achieve in practical terms.
The primary data of a qualitative nature which has been used in this research extensively has been carefully and thoughtfully selected and strengthened with other sources. For example, primary data was used in the form of interviews and questionnaires but then secondary data was used to confirm the findings because “secondary data can illustrate strengths and weaknesses of data not originally conceived by the primary data collector” (Riedel 2000 in Thyer 2010, p.175). This is further confirmed by Cherlin (1991, in Thyer 2010, p.175) who states that “if multiple researchers study similar topics, their unique approaches can lead to a form of convergent validity.”
Conversely, in cases where the information needed was only available in, for example, trade journals or a mainstream newspaper, a high level of reasoning was used so that the material in question was of a reputable and unbiased nature as material such as newspapers can contain bias, inaccuracies and inconsistencies (Saunders et al 2009, p.73-74).
Time and cost constraints led to four ‘semi-structured' interviews being carried out as this fills the spectrum between the two extremes namely, structured and unstructured interviews (Fellows and Liu 2003, p.112). Due to the low number of interviewees and because interviews can be subject to problems of poor recall, poor or inaccurate articulation and bias (Yin 2008), the concept of triangulation by method (Padgett 1998, p.97) was used which is “the use of two or more research methods to investigate the same thing” (Fellows and Liu, p.113). Thus twenty five questionnaires were completed which were sent by email to one hundred specifically chosen companies. The companies were chosen based upon minimum revenue of £20 million per year. This financial information was either in the public domain or the researcher was able to ask colleagues in the industry for advice. This ensured that companies were large enough to consider partnering as a feasible procurement route. Email was chosen as the medium because in this modern age it is a highly accessible medium and sustainability issues were considered.
Much of this primary and qualitative material allowed the researcher to consider other contrasting but complementary sources (which are cited within the text). This made it advantageous to include certain discussions, such as, examples of partnering, or the affect of recession on partnering, or the detriments to partnering, so that it could be examined in more detail and counter arguments could be explored.
Information obtained on partnering was also triangulated by theory where possible, i.e. data from a study of partnering could be, for example, analysed using theory of trust, construction management theory and SCM theory. Padgett (p.97) states that “this type of triangulation is likely to yield diverse findings that can broaden our perspectives on the phenomenon.” The aim here would be not to corroborate findings but to analyse them in different ways using different theories. This is important so that one can see the arguments of what makes successful partnering from different perspectives, as well as being able to reach better concluding fundamentals, not to mention that it could provide clearer and deeper observations.
Results and Discussion
In order to encourage debate and discussion about the industry's practices and procedures, a significant number of reports have been published over the last 40-50 years. However, the majority of them have either been destined for the bin or gathered dust on the shelves (Egan 2000, in Murray 2003, p.188), with the exception of the Latham and Egan reports, which have been the most influential on the industry (Loraine 1994; Bennett 2000; and more recently Cooke and Williams 2009, p.5) mention that ideas about modern partnering first emerged in the car industry of Japan in the 1960's, and the USA took Japan's more efficient methods of manufacturing and applied it. This approach arrived in the UK through the North Sea oil and gas industries in the early 1990's and subsequently flowed into the construction industry (Egan 1998 p.12). The characteristics of these agreements appear to have been long term relationships amongst manufacturers and key suppliers often including maintenance. This is comparable in concept to the operation of the lift installation sector of the UK construction industry.
Bovis Lend Lease is recognised as being the first UK construction company to be involved in a partnering arrangement with Marks and Spencer (Loraine 1994, cited in Pryke 2009). Another example is given by Daniels (1991, cited in Pryke 2009) where a UK brick supplier re-engineered its links with architectural buyers through innovative use of information technology. Although both examples were not termed partnering at the time, early indications suggest that broad principles of trust and a maximisation of each party's resource and expertise were emphasised.
Theory of Partnering
Academics (Bennett and Jayes 1995; Ledger 2003; Naoum 2003; Thurairajah et al 2006; Mason 2007) suggest that partnering in general has its fair share of success stories and benefits and have generally agreed upon this. In conceptual terms, from amongst these benefits and probably the prerequisite to changing traditional relationships to more collaborative ones, is mutual trust (Barlow and Cohen 1996, in Thurairajah et al 2006; Bresnen and Marshall 2000). Barlow et al (1997 cited in Naoum, 2003) “have succinctly argued that, to achieve mutual trust, organisations must ensure that individual goals are not placed ahead of the team alliance.”
Trust between organisations refers to the confidence that a partner will not exploit the vulnerabilities of the other (Barney and Hansen 1994, cited in Reuer 2004). Hence, each party's consciousness that the other will lose out a great deal if they behave opportunistically, enhances that party's confidence in the other. All this helps us to appreciate that partnering is built upon personal opinions and behavioural characteristics of individuals, which encourages mutual trust and hence a shift away from the traditional adversarial culture of the industry.
A reputation for trustworthiness and moral behaviour attracts more business and tends to lead to a reduction of costs (Brenkert 1998 in Akintoye and Main 2007, p.610; Fellows in Pryke 2009). Most researchers suggest that cost savings are the main advantage in using partnering in construction (Thurairajah et al 2006, p.564). These savings can potentially be multiplied – especially for the contractor, if there is repeat business i.e. strategic partnering. A report endorsed by the NAO (2007) suggests that project partnering can achieve savings of 2-10% in the cost of construction and strategic partnering can deliver significant savings of up to 30%. Furthermore surveys and interviews conducted by various academics (Fortune and Setiawan 2005; Franco 2008; Potts 2008) and case studies done by organisations (Constructing Excellence, WMCCE, CCI, CABE) all support the fact that real cost savings can occur if strategic partnering is utilised.
The parties that are engaged in partnering may well have different motivations. Bresnen and Marshall (2000, cited in Alderman and Ivory 2007) note that the potential for acquiring further work from the same client can be a greater motivation for contractors in meeting project cost and completion targets, than a sharing in cost savings or the avoidance of penalties. However, given the one-off requirements of most construction clients, project partnering remains the most common procurement route (Cox and Townsend 1998).
According to Naoum (2003, p73-74) partnering reduces the number of disputes and improvements in cost performance can be contributed to as a result of reduced disputes and litigation. Additionally, partnering places emphasis on effective dispute resolution thus avoiding the development of a confrontational atmosphere that has demonstrated many times to have a negative impact on project performance (Beach et al 2005). Latham's Report (1994) recommended that adjudication should be the normal method of dispute resolution due to it being “quick, cheap and mutually agreeable” (Hibberd and Newman 1999, p.90). There is a valid point in the recognition that there will always be disputes in construction projects. Perhaps this is the unavoidable first stage of partnering. It is difficult to eradicate adversarialism from partners until a philosophy of mutual trust and shared gains, is demonstrated.
Partnering can provide better value for clients (Egan 1998; Bennett and Peace 2006; Thomas and Thomas 2005) but whilst Naoum (2003) argues that the “concept of lowest cost tendering as best value for money appears to be in decline”, this recessionary climate may prove that to be wrong. A report conducted by Business Vantage and Construction Client's Group, whilst the recession was taking place (2008-09), states from its findings that “during the research process (several times) reference was made to ‘Bills of Quantities' with a throw-back to single stage bids, to take advantage of market conditions” (p.11).
The report then further states that during the next 18 months clients being tempted to test the market and supply chain organisations will revert to focus on cost rather than value. However, there is an opportunity to learn from experience and actions that have been adopted in previous recessions. Consequently this should encourage closer collaboration with clients and delivery of improved and better value. Beach et al (2005, p.617) states that this “can be drawn out of a project by utilising the specialist knowledge and expertise of suppliers.” This can prevent problems, decrease programme complexities, costs and durations and improve quality.
Potential Detriments to Partnering
Partnering ostensibly operates as a means for contractors, clients and their supply chains to rethink their relationships with one another (Alderman and Ivory, p.388). The first major detriment in the current climate to collaborative working lies at the very start of the productive process, namely the attitude of clients (Bishop et al 2009, p.254). In traditional construction projects the client wields significant power by way of tendering contracts, conversely for collaborative working to function properly, the client must be able and willing to change this attitude and encourage a mutual commitment to win-win attitude. Bishop et al (2009, p.254-255) conducted a study on adversarialism in the industry and found that the client is “one of the greatest obstacles to the expansion of collaborative practices.” More than a decade on from Egan's report it seems that we still need to educate and help clients to differentiate between best value and lowest price (Egan 1998, p.7).
The current macroeconomic situation is crucial in producing an environment that either supports or discourages the pursuit of collaborative engagements. This has had an effect on the volume and type of work available as it is not stable, but is instead subject to market fluctuations (The Independent 2010). “The economic cycle and prevailing market conditions have an important impact upon the feasibility of a collaborative approach” (Bishop et al (p.255). Ng et al (2002) observed that collaborative working is often a market-dependent activity; tightening of profit margins causes clients and contractors to revert to more predictable practices of squeezing ‘value' from each stage of the process.” This is also supported by Bresnen and Marshall (2000), when market volatilities are threatening an organisation; survival intuitivism destroys any form of collaboration.
Partnering in Practice
Although the findings of this study indicate a consistent intention of the construction industry to change its culture and the way it does business amongst the parties, a large number of problems are also recognised. This is probably because “much of the partnering literature tends to concentrate on success stories, which are largely anecdotal and focus on the experiences of exemplar organizations” (Wood and Ellis 2005, p.318). All respondents were also unanimous in stating that the industry has come a long way from the confrontational and adversarial relationships that existed 15-20 years ago.
Evidently from the study it seemed that real trust took time and was not easy to establish between the client and contractor. Respondents generally agreed with the theory (Charlett 1996; Bennett and Jayes 1998; Bresnen and Marshall 2000; Thurairajah et al 2008) that trust is an essential component of partnering, but nearly all said that because of a history of adversarialism, trust does not come naturally to either party. As one public sector client bluntly said:
“We've been shafted so many times by contractors! I myself am not comfortable in trusting them. It's like sticking your hand into a beehive [and] trusting that they're not going to sting.”
A contractor suggested that the feeling was mutual:
“I wouldn't dare be open with my costs as more than likely the client is going to take away the little margins I have.”
A contractor (large company) stated in an interview:
“For some contractors and clients especially ones from the old school, it is difficult to trust each other, this is even more applicable in this current climate, there is hope though, that as new blood comes into the industry things will get better.”
This exposes the current culture of the construction industry. If an opportunity is presented to weaken and abuse – to ‘shaft' – other parties, the reaction that was common was to make the most of it when it arose. This effectively encourages aggression and provokes distrust. A reason for this could be that “although trust is alleged to be a central concept...it remains poorly understood, in terms of its conceptual domain, antecedents, and consequences” (Parkhe 2004, p.83 in Reuer 2004). Trust is dynamic and hence either increasing or deteriorating and often it is interlinked with circumstances that involve personal conflict, where the outcome is uncertain and where problem solving needs to be delved into (Nyhan and Marlowe 1997). Nevertheless, considering the time period of collaboration, the complexities of the project, and changing conditions in which projects run, the concepts and theories of trust in a partnering agreement in construction will be different from other industries and settings.
When asked if the theory that real cost savings can be made over time in a partnered relationship, applied in practise, over two thirds of the respondents agreed. A particular contractor (medium size company) stated:
“You can definitely have cost savings if you stay long enough in the relationship...we could have slaughtered a cow and ate it once but we strategically chose to milk it every day.”
Another provided a figure during an interview:
“...we save on average 5-10% if it's a one-off.”
However, the same contractor provided an interesting insight:
“...the problem is that although all parties want to try and save costs, if we managed to save, say, £1 million from a £10 million project, the client would have a target of £9 million for the next [similar] project. So it gets even more difficult to save costs.”
This seems to be a problem that is recognised by some academics such as Alderman and Ivory (p.388) who suggest that some clients use the garbs of partnering, but still work on lump sum contracts. Under a cynical version of ‘continuous improvement,' clients ratchet down costs rather than concentrate on value to the project. This makes this type of arrangement as onerous as standard contracting terms. Beach et al (2005) have provided similar findings.
Furthermore, these cost savings didn't seem to go down to benefit the supply chain. A subcontractor, who agreed that cost savings could be made, had his reservations as to where they ended up:
“...cost savings made are more often than not retained by the MCs who screw the subbies [sic] who are keen to get a slice of the large contracts...”
In other words, current practice indicates that the theoretical cost benefits of partnering are not entirely mutual. Therefore, if the savings are not mutual for all parties, the main contractor may well be satisfied in squeezing out minor improvements to the balance sheet, but this is detrimental to the relationship which will be limited to a one-off project and the potential benefit of strategic partnering will be lost. In other words, if the contractor does not adopt a truly mutually beneficial strategy nor will the rest of the parties in the long run (Beach et al 2005).
Conversely, firms that are involved in strategic partnering in the current recession may be drawn against increased financial constraints because they are operating with partners for whom funding may become increasingly more difficult to obtain. Financial institutions may set restrictive conditions on loans. However, “the biggest threat facing the industry with its current challenges and in the face of economic pressures is that it takes a short-term perspective and becomes ‘price focused' (Business Vantage 2009, p.7).
Half the respondents felt that all parties tried harder in partnering arrangements as compared to traditional methods, to avoid disputes or to at least resolve them by other than litigation means. One contractor even went as far as saying:
“The contractor won't want to jeopardise future projects so disputes are easily resolved...resulting in a work supply that is pretty much guaranteed as a result we have a better relationship...we don't want a xxxxxx [sic] off client which is no good for anyone.”
While others didn't agree with this and a contractor in an interview explained that:
“...my opinion is that there is the same amount of disputes in trying to co-ordinate between services, often the left-hand not knowing what the right-hand is doing. There is a general assumption that as they either all work from the same office or are of course partners, that all parties are going to be in agreement and co-ordinate their services, but I find this is very often not the case at all.”
Traditionally, disputes and conflicts have been a problem in the industry and as a result it can be very adversarial in nature (Thurairajah et al 2006). Conflict and failure could take place due essentially to a deviation in goals, especially in terms of accountability, thereby preventing any collaboration that may have been obtained by the partnering process. Assaf et al (1995) and Kumaraswamy (1997) attempt to better understand disputes and identify various root causes. When parties select who they want to partner with, they “should identify whether the people who will be involved can manage relationships as well as deal with paperwork” (Bennett and Peace, p.140-141). They need to have a cooperative attitude that allows them to be more aptly skilled at forging and maintaining agreements than dealing with disputes.
When asked if partnering provided better value for all parties, a mixed response was received. In an interview, a public sector client provided an insight to the way that things are changing due to macroeconomic factors:
“Everyone was looking at BAA, as it was the example being pushed in our faces in the late 90's... until recently, of collaborative working in construction. It meant better value for money for everyone concerned. Now look what's happened? [laughs] BAA is doing a U-turn back to competitive tendering, why? Because it would provide more [emphasis] value for money to the client.”
Some agreement can be expressed here as BAA's decision to abandon framework agreements in May 2009, “blew apart the group's £6.6bn framework programme” (Building 2009). Steven Morgan of BAA also stated that “competition was the best way to raise standards and get value for money” (Building 2009 ADD A, B C). Furthermore it seems that “there is a limited understanding of how value can be created through the construction process” (Wolstenholme 2009, p.4). This was not an isolated case showing the importance of value for every party concerned, a subcontractor answered in detail regarding this issue:
“We often opt out of partnering because in practice there is too much corruption associated with it and little value. Take as an example the tendering process for the Olympic works...it was purely for show and in actual fact was determined early on. None of the main contractors were going to partner us as they already have their own piling arms which they were going to use regardless of our price.”
This ‘corruption' leads to poor value for the client (the taxpayer), an unfair advantage to competitors and plenty of wasted time and money for companies such as the above in the tendering process. Wolstenholme (2009, p.4) offers an alternative based upon his findings and believes “that the era of client-led change is over...and that it is now time for the supply side to demonstrate how it can create value through innovation, collaboration and integrated working – in short, the principles outlined in Rethinking Construction.”
Paul Morrell we need new ways of working together, we have come a long way, ecobuild podcast.
Reference conference papers given by Ange and lean thinking.
The aim of this paper has been to use the theory examined by academics and critique its application in practice, but in a more pertinent manner to the current economic climate. Emphasis of this research has therefore been placed upon analysing partnering from a context that implied over-turning common assumptions allowing theory and practice to be critiqued more ironically so that emphasis can be made on particular pitfalls and challenges that partnering faces. Whilst it has been recognised by the industry that it has come a long way since the confrontational and adversarial relationships that existed 15-20 years ago, it seems from the findings, that detriments are dictating the pace at which the industry embraces partnering and other collaborative methods.
A number of detriments to successful partnering are identified and they in general tend to support the concerns mentioned by academics in the literature. Decades of conflict and mistrust has resulted in clients, contractors and subcontractors simply not sharing the same vision: the vision is to exploit in order to increase their own profit at the expense of the party. In this situation, the foundation to support collaboration is missing. The principle barrier between the parties is that of trust and it is regarded as the foundation for improved collaborative relationships as mentioned by Latham (1994). Trust has also been acknowledged as the basis for developing other significant success factors including knowledge sharing, openness, honesty and teamwork. However, there is some anticipation that building trust may become easier as the industry is slowly being replenished by new employees who are untainted by years of conflicts and disputes.
Conversely, examples and case studies of partnering being successful are numerous and acknowledged by several academics and the researcher also appreciates this. Hence the purpose has not been to question or undermine partnering itself, but rather the aim has been to highlight in a stimulating, yet critical way, that the challenges implicated with partnering are diverse and difficult. These challenges require a realisation of the background in which these relationships occur and an understanding of commercial and organisational influences. It must also be perceptible that partnering is not a single, all-encompassing procurement solution and it requires dedication not just from the client and contractor, but rather from all parties who are involved in partnering.
Unsurprisingly, not all respondents shared similar experiences and the levels of success are patchy. One might conclude from this research paper that partnering has not consistently moved forward since the Latham and Egan reports. However, there is evidence cited above of significant improvement in cost savings, but the realisation of other potential benefits is dependent on the nature of the parties and shared visions. This is probably not something new per se, but what is new are the methods by which all parties are trying to steer a way forward whilst providing mutual advantage and concurrently reducing conflicts.
The conclusions of this study are limited to the views expressed by senior figures within the client and contracting organisations included in the survey. As such, they cannot claim to be representative of thinking throughout the construction industry.
Nevertheless, the size and experience of the companies within the sample, together with the seniority of the individuals interviewed, do mean that it provides a valuable insight into the reality of partnering relationships currently in place. There appears to be considerable momentum behind the drive to change the way business transactions are conducted, and both clients and contractors deserve praise for the effort and creativity they have brought to their respective initiatives.
The analysis above has been wide-ranging in its approach and has suggested that research into partnering (and similar forms of collaborative supply chain interaction) would benefit from taking into account more fully the insights available from a range of disciplinary perspectives (especially organisational theory and strategic management) and from a variety of theoretical positions within those disciplines. The theoretical positions that have been alluded to include institutional theory, the resource based view of the firm and practice-based approaches to knowledge and learning – but extend also to more critical perspectives on social and organisational theory
there is a pressing need to add greater empirical weight to theory
Is there a risk that collaborative working makes complacent the Tier 1 contractors and stifles their aptitudes to innovate (e.g. service quality, project management processes, etc...)? In other words, is partnering in construction good for value and profit for all, but bad for innovation for all? There are compelling reasons for asking this question for academics and practitioners, one being the discrepancy between the tangible benefits of collaborative working and the economic reality of a highly competitive industry such as the UK construction sector.
Remember that these must clearly come from your own information and analysis: they must not simply appear out of thin air!
It is also common, especially for the best research publications, to finish with two short sections: one is a critical reflection on how this study went, for example how it could have been improved; and finally what other things does it suggest for future investigation. Knowing what you have just shown us, what might come next?