Trust plays an important role in supplier–buyer relationships. One way to approach this important concept is game theory. If you have ever wondered how game theory could be taught in a supply chain management course, I can recommend Nick Case’s The Evolution of Trust – an interactive guide to the game theory of why and how we trust each other. The guide starts by explaining the game of trust (= the prisoner’s dilemma). Then it illustrates what happens if multiple games and multiple tournaments are played with different players. We can learn from this guide that “the game defines the players” but also that “the players define the game”. We can learn that, in order for trust to evolve, we need the knowledge of possible future repeat interactions, we need a win–win situation, and we need a low level of miscommunication. I will definitely use The Evolution of Trust in my future supply chain management courses.
In a previous post, I presented a discussion about the relationship between transaction cost economics (TCE) and supply chain management (SCM), which was started by Williamson (2008) and continued by Zipkin (2012). This discussion called attention to several theoretical gaps at the TCE/SCM interface. In their 2012 article, Supply Chain-Wide Consequences of Transaction Risks and Their Contractual Solutions, Wever et al. argue that “a shift [is needed] within the TCE literature from a focus on bilateral transactions, to examining transactions within a supply chain context”. They present five models which “(1) provide justification for moving the TCE framework beyond the dyad; and (2) explain the implications of the shift toward an extended TCE framework for the (optimal) use of supply chain contracts”. It turns out that supply chain members need to take into account both transactions on the supply side and transactions on the demand side, as only this can reduce exposure to transaction risks.
Wever, M., Wognum, P.M., Trienekens, J.H., & Omta, S.W.F. (2012). Supply Chain-Wide Consequences of Transaction Risks and Their Contractual Solutions: Towards an Extended Transaction Cost Economics Framework. Journal of Supply Chain Management, 48 (1), 73-91 DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-493X.2011.03253.x
Supply chains have often been regarded as interorganizational networks. An incredibly insightful article by Provan et al. (2007), Interorganizational networks at the network level: A review of the empirical literature on whole networks, makes clear that two different views on interorganizational networks need to be distinguished: (1) the view from the organizational level of analysis (also referred to as actor level, micro-level or egocentric network level) and (2) the view from the network level of analysis (also referred to as macro-level or whole network level). Egocentric theories often focus on the “embeddedness” of an organization in a network and on dyadic relationships. The authors argue that “[o]nly by examining the whole network can we understand such issues as how networks evolve, how they are governed, and, ultimately, how collective outcomes might be generated”. Their article provides a review of studies of whole networks. I am certain that supply chain management research can benefit from this valuable contribution.
Provan, K., Fish, A., & Sydow, J. (2007). Interorganizational Networks at the Network Level: A Review of the Empirical Literature on Whole Networks. Journal of Management, 33 (3), 479-516 DOI: 10.1177/0149206307302554
Published in 1998, The relational view: Cooperative strategy and sources of interorganizational competitive advantage by Dyer and Singh remains one of the most influential business papers. Ten years later, the authors discussed their paper in an interview with ScienceWatch.com. They argue that “the main contribution of the [paper] was that it outlined a theory for considering dyads and networks of firms as a key unit of analysis for explaining superior individual firm performance”. The relational view extends both the industry structure view (unit of analysis: industry) and the resource-based view (unit of analysis: firm), because from this view a critical resource can span firm boundaries. The four sources of interorganizational competitive advantage identified by the authors are: (1) relation-specific assets, (2) knowledge-sharing routines, (3) complementary resources/capabilities, and (4) effective governance. While researchers are still searching for the paradigm of SCM research, the relational view can be an important building block to explain the supply and demand network. The relational view has later been extended by Lavie (2006).