Toward a better understanding of the dynamics in buyer-supplier partnerships: An exploratory study of partnering dyads from multi-functional perspectives

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration


Paul M. Bobrowski


Supply chain, Buyer-supplier partnerships, Supplier partnerships, Partnering dyads

Subject Categories

Business Administration, Management, and Operations


The recognition of the interdependency between a firm and its suppliers has stimulated changes in the relationship between firms and their upstream suppliers. Traditional relationships between buyers and their suppliers were typically short-term antagonistic relationships where buyers and suppliers competed against each other in tough, zero-sum negotiations that focused primarily on price. These traditional relationships are, in many instances, being replaced by closer, more collaborative partner-like approaches.

These partner-like relationships have been the focus of an expanding body of academic and practitioner literature. However, to date, there is little research that has simultaneously investigated both sides of the partnering dyad. This study addresses that gap in the current literature by exploring buyer-supplier partnerships from cross-functional perspectives within both partnering organizations.

Three manufacturing partnerships were studied using a multisite, qualitative case study design. Thirty-six personal interviews were conducted with participants of these partnerships; the participants represented both the buyer and supplier firms and different functions within those firms. The objective was to gain an in-depth understanding of how the participants perceived their partnership and why they perceived it that way. The results of the study are a conceptual framework that describes buyer-supplier partnerships and a set of working hypotheses to serve as the base line for future theory-building and theory-testing research.

The key findings of the study are: (1) buyers and suppliers have similar views as to the key success factors in partnerships; (2) participants from different functions also have similar views regarding key success factors; (3) tangible and intangible outcomes are necessary for participant satisfaction with the partnership; (4) joint problem solving activities are important in generating tangible and intangible outcomes; and (5) organizational self-awareness and inter-organizational understanding are essential in facilitating successful joint problem solving activities. The study also provides insights into partnerships that might be useful to managers and practitioners, as well as possible directions for future research in this field.


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