Relational contracting in Nordic construction – a comparative longitudinal account of institutional field developments

Anna Kadefors (Corresponding Author), Kirsi Aaltonen, Stefan Christoffer Gottlieb, Ole Jonny Klakegg, Pertti Lahdenperä, Nils O.E. Olsson, Lilly Rosander, Christian Thuesen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Relational contracting is increasingly being applied to complex and uncertain construction projects. However, it has proved hard to achieve stable performance and industry-level learning in this field. This paper employs an institutional perspective to analyze how legitimacy for relational contracting has been produced and challenged in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, including implications for dissemination and learning. Design/methodology/approach: A collaborative case study design is used, where longitudinal accounts of the developments in relational contracting over more than 25 years in four Nordic countries were developed by scholars based in each country. The descriptions are underpinned by literature sources from research, practice and policy. Findings: The countries share similar problem perceptions that have triggered the de-institutionalization of traditional contracting practices. Models and policies developed elsewhere are important sources of knowledge and legitimacy. Most countries have seen pendulum movements, where dissemination of relational contracting is followed by backlashes when projects fail to meet projected outcomes. Before long, however, relational contracting tends to re-emerge under new labels and in slightly new forms. Such a proliferation of concepts presents further obstacles to learning. Successful institutionalization is found to rely on realistic goals in combination with broad competence development at the organizational and industry levels. Practical implications: In seeking inspiration from other countries, policymakers should go beyond contract models to also consider strategies to manage industry-level learning. Originality/value: The paper provides a unique longitudinal cross-country perspective on the field of relational contracting. As such, it contributes to the small stream of literature on long-term institutional change in the construction sector.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-46
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of Managing Projects in Business
Volume17
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2024
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Alliances
  • ECI
  • Infrastructure
  • Institutionalization
  • IPD
  • Legitimacy theory
  • Partnering
  • Procurement

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