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    Driving program delivery forward? A case study of owner-supplier collaboration in infrastructure development

    Bresnen, Michael ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3295-8235 and Lennie, Sarah-Jane (2023) Driving program delivery forward? A case study of owner-supplier collaboration in infrastructure development. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management. ISSN 0018-9391

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    Abstract

    Despite the growth of interest in collaborative working on major public sector projects and programmes of work, research on the processes and dynamics of relational contracting in this context is still scarce. Yet, such research can generate important insights into the enabling and inhibiting conditions of collaboration in such institutional contexts, as well as more widely; it can also add to our understanding of what relational contracting means in practice for public sector organizations expected to operate in more commercial ways. This paper delivers on these aims by examining the case of a UK government body responsible for delivering major new programmes of infrastructure development, which was embarking on a journey towards collaborative working with its main suppliers. Research was conducted over a two-year period and data were collected via interviews, direct observation and documentation. The principal contribution of the research is in demonstrating the fundamental impact that internal organizational structural/cultural conditions have upon shaping external relational contracting (and vice versa) and how the dynamics of the relationship created divergence in the trajectories of collaboration across projects, with resultant implications for achieving wider programme integration. Managerial relevance statement – Developing and embedding collaborative contracting - particularly on major public sector projects and programmes - is a challenging prospect and one that requires both structural and cultural adjustments to ways of working within both client and contractor organisations. This paper highlights the reflexivity needed if public agencies are to understand and manage the unintended as well as intended consequences of their actions in designing and implementing new collaborative initiatives. It also highlights the importance of reflection to ensure that new management processes are temporally and culturally synchronized with the dynamics of the emergent collaborative relationship and that this also occurs across projects within wider programmes of work. As such, the paper has important practical insights and lessons to be learned in assisting programme/project ‘owners’, particularly those in the public sector, to embed new ways of collaborative working on their projects, while not losing sight of how this translates into achieving integration across programmes of work.

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