Frontpage  About
Paper info: Norms of Autonomy, A Study of SMC Cooperation


Norms of Autonomy, A Study of SMC Cooperation


Eiren Tuusjarvi

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 21st IMP-conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands in 2005.


Download paper
(147.6 kb)


This article focuses on normative, behavioural expectations which guide cooperation between multiplecompanies. Relational norms which bring parties to act together in cooperation have been in focus inmany earlier studies. The importance of relational norms is acknowledged also here. However, this articlefocuses the attention to the individual interests of the parties and particularly to the need of maintainingautonomy in certain areas also while in cooperation.While most of the studies on norms guiding inter-company relationships have been quantitative, thisresearch was performed as a qualitative research with a case group of five small and medium sizedcompanies. The purpose of the cooperation was to develop export operations of the parties. For the study,data was mainly collected through interviews while the events were still unfolding. Documents andsupplementary information acquired through telephone discussions were used to complement theinterview data. The analysis was performed through discourse analysis.The framework is based on Ian Macneils (1980) theory of contracts. The theory distinguishes ‘discretenorms’ and ‘relational norms’ which both have gained attention in research concerning inter-companyexchange relationships. Macneil’s theory is briefly reviewed in order to provide a specific field ofdiscussion, and to provide the context in which to give meaning to the findings and a place to incorporatethe findings of the analysis.This research makes a contribution through suggesting a new, third category of norms, ‘norms ofmoderated autonomy’. Normative expectations within this category guide situations where individualparties’ choice of behavior would be in conflict with the interests of the others or the group – but where theparties each and individually perceive the behavior as expected and acceptable. One central example ofthis is: Partners acting in conformance to relational norms show understanding and acceptance in asituation where one of the companies refuses a large and important contract due to a necessity to givepriority to domestic key customer, a contract that had been negotiated for months and which would havebeen important for the group as a whole. While it was not positive to loose a deal from the point of view ofthe cooperation, each of the partners shared the behavioral expectation of giving priority to domestic keycustomers.