Interorganizational Partner Selection as Negotiation: A Study of Two Distance Education Consortia
Pidduck, Anne Banks
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The choice of appropriate collaborative partners has consistently been reported as a key issue for contemporary managers. This study reports findings from a study which explored the process and criteria of partner selection - how and why partners are chosen. The results show multiple cycles of deal-making, partnership roles and organizational approval. Partner choice criteria focused on partnership requirements, but was influenced by additional factors. These results suggest that partner selection may be much more complex than previously recognized and could be better described as partner negotiation. <br /><br /> The researcher reviewed recent literature on partnerships, decision-making, and partner selection. Concepts from this previous work were updated with data from three initial interviewees experienced in university-industry partnerships. A conceptual Partner Negotiation Model was developed including three cycles of Deal-Making, Organizational Approval, and Partner Role/Selection. Our hypothesized Partner Choice Criteria centred on requirements, but were influenced by resource availability, social network, reputation, politics, and ambiguity. Two Canada-wide distance education consortia were identified as large-scale case studies for investigation of the research theory. A total of 34 informants were contacted. Written business plans, contracts, documents, partner network diagrams and 231 archival e-mails from 36 correspondents were collected and analysed for the two consortia. <br /><br /> The results showed strong support for partner selection included in negotiation cycles of deal-making and organizational approval. Partner choice criteria supported the need to meet documented requirements, but was also strongly influenced by resource availability, social network, and reputation. Additional issues of interest to the interviewees were motivation, operations, unit of partner, self-sustaining income, and integration to one consortium. As well, the Case Study Narratives offered deep, interesting insight into two specific cases of Canadian consortia. <br /><br /> The findings suggest that the formation of partnerships and the process of partner selection are both very complex. This research has provided new insights linking business negotiation concepts with partner selection. A model has been developed for viewing partner selection as negotiation. Three negotiation cycles of deal-making, organizational approval, and partner role/selection have been proposed. The research has identified four criteria that influence why specific partners are chosen ? requirements, resource availability, social network, and reputation. Finally, based on the complexities and issues from this work, a number of ideas for future research have been summarized.