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Paper info: A Collaborative Interest Model of Relational Coordination: Examining Relational Norms as Actor Bonds


A Collaborative Interest Model of Relational Coordination: Examining Relational Norms as Actor Bonds


Chris Medlin
University of Adelaide
Chris Medlin and P. G. Quester

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 17th IMP-conference in Oslo, Norway in 2001.


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An important aspect of business-to-business marketing involves the development over time ofprivileged bonds between firms. Research has identified the complexity of such bonds andemphasised the need for closer scrutiny of the different mechanisms at work in successful andmutually beneficial business relationships.Actor intention and actor bonds are structured as a complex amalgam of self and collectiveinterest. Firms cooperate for self-interest and in that process generate relational norms whosestructure can be represented as actor bonds.In this study, a longitudinal input-process-output model of relationships is proposed. Input byfirms motivated to create relationships is driven by the need to access customers or resources.This desire to operate in a relationship leads firms to coordinate themselves through a processwhereby relational norms are developed and finally, output is achieved at a relationship level.That output is conceptualised at a relationship level recognises the emergent results ofinteraction, an essential reason for joining any relationship.The model was empirically tested in the computer software industry with a survey of firmsacting as principals and distributors in a number of existing distribution relationships.Our findings, based on regression analysis, suggest that self and collective interest result in anintriguing blend of relational norms. The proposition that self-interest is not linked to trustand commitment is supported, suggesting that relational coordination is primarily based oncollective interest. However, the proposition that flexibility is linked to both self andcollective interest is also supported. This suggests that the degree of flexibility found inrelationships may reflect the continuing need of balancing self and collective interests.The final section of the paper proposes directions for future research on the intertwining ofself and collective interest in relationships, along with their associations to actor bondstructure that is configured as relational norms.