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Inter-organisational Relationships in a Cross-Culture Supply Chain Context: International Travelling Exhibitions

Alejandra Efrón

Inter-organisational and interpersonal relationships are regarded as one of the most complex components of managing effective supply chains. Globally, this complexity is augmented by the negotiation of these relationships within a linguistically and attitudinally diverse cross-cultural context. Analysis of the cross-cultural factors underpinning inter-organisational relationships, and their interrelationship, is required to understand their impact upon the efficiency of the global supply chains.

Through a critique of the supply chain management (SCM) approaches to inter-organisational relationships, this thesis proposes and models the cross-cultural supply chain, conceptualised as the intersection of the global SCM and an inter-organisational relationship network. This network is understood as an intangible interconnected system where social, organisational and political factors dynamically interact. The cross-cultural supply chain model is based on two propositions. The first proposition is that while operational and strategic software systems are employed to increase efficiency in operations and decision-making, the psychological distances of social, organisational and political issues remain. The second proposition is that while relationships between organisations are explicit, an underlying dynamic exists in the interaction between one agent's characteristics and the perceived attributes of the other, ultimately influencing the inter-organisational relationship.

This thesis focuses on the elementary interrelationship component (EIC), a core constituent of the cross-cultural supply chain. The EIC is formed through the interaction of diverse factors such as culture, communication, trust, brand, reputation, knowledge, politics and risk which combine to produce an integrated component property of each organisation which is only exposed through attributes. As a result of the heterogeneous reactions of decision makers from one organisation to the attributes of another organisation, different outcomes are generated. For example, 'reputation' is an attribute inherent to an organisation. In a negotiation process however the role this attribute plays varies according to the importance different decision makers from a second organisation confer to the attribute, given their personal characteristics (position within the organisation, nationality, level of education). While important in a stable context, the interaction of that particular attribute with the agent's personal characteristics acquires further significance when a contextual change occurs since agents' reaction will unconsciously depend on their proprietarial mindset.

Museums involved in negotiating international travelling exhibitions are employed in the thesis as a case to empirically test the proposed dual propositions of the cross-cultural supply chain model. The international travelling exhibition is modelled as a global SC, where all material and information flows are managed from the conception of the exhibition, through to the works' return to the lending museum. In the past five years, cultural organisations such as universities and museums have been subject to continuous pressure to perform, change and implement sustainable strategies currently used in for-profit organisations, in order to meet budgets and core goals while simultaneously providing value to their stakeholders. As they experience a reduction of governmental financial support, the challenge for these organisations is to achieve a tertium quid to deal with the conflicting priorities of competitive entrepreneurship, their core function and their social role.

Stated choice methodology is employed to test the cross-cultural supply chain model as an explanation of individual choice behaviour. Twelve relevant attributes ascribed to museums involved in negotiating travelling exhibitions were defined in collaboration with museum professionals worldwide. The data was collected through a survey instrument distributed by e-mail to respondents in museums around the world. Two different models are estimated. First, a multinomial logit model is used to provide a robust model to initiate model specification. Secondly, a mixed logit model is estimated, providing more accurate behavioural information. 

Statistically significant influences on agent choices include not only the museum-specific attributes defined but also diverse variables where the attributes interact with the respondents' socio-demographic characteristics. The evidence suggests that significant relationships between the attributes of the institution with which an individual is negotiating (i.e., the potential partner) and the personal and organisational characteristics of this same individual do exist. These interactions are important in simple inter-organisational relationship agreements and gain even more significance in complex relationships such as international alliances and partnerships.

This thesis furthers the understanding of the role that decision makers' personal characteristics have in the development of inter-organisational relationships within the global SCM. The cross-cultural supply chain model developed in the thesis is applicable to all organisations, however, the detailed findings and conclusions are restricted in application to the type of organisation studied, where the majority of the decision makers are educated to postgraduate level and are highly cross culturally exposed.