Relational quality: A dynamic framework for assessing the role of trust in strategic alliances
de la Torre, Jose
Ring, Peter S.
The organizational literature has always posited that «trust» plays a key role in economic exchanges, particularly when one or another party is subject to the risk of opportunistic behaviour, incomplete monitoring, or when moral hazard problems arise. These conditions are almost always present in the case of alliances and joint ventures between independent parties. This paper explores the concept of «relational quality» in one such inter-organizational form dyadic alliances where past experience and the shadow of the future play an important role. Relational quality is important, as it affects the extent to which partners substitute reliance on trust for more formal control mechanisms. Building on theory, case studies and survey data, we develop a framework for thinking about trust in dynamic and practical terms. We define three elements affecting relational quality in alliances: the initial conditions surrounding the exchange, the cumulative experiences of the parties with each other's behaviours as they interact, and the impact that external events have on perceptions of behaviour and attitudes of the parties about each other's trustworthiness. We use data on a sample of alliances with one Spanish partner to explore the relative impact of these elements and develop a more precise set of propositions from this framework. The paper should guide further work towards quantifying the role of trust as a control mechanism in the performance of strategic alliances.
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