The role of interpersonal relationships in supply chain integration : a thesis by publications presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Purpose –This research aims to explore the role of inter-personal relationships within a supply chain integration context. Firstly, it proposes a conceptual model addressing the interrelationships between interpersonal relationships, inter-organizational relationships, and supply chain integration. Secondly, it investigates the influence of interpersonal relationships on supply chain integration. Lastly, it examines how interpersonal relationships influence interorganizational relationships to enable supply chain integration. Methodology/approach – Based on a comprehensive literature review, the study first proposes a series of propositions and establishes a conceptual framework to illustrate the relationship between interpersonal relationships, inter-organizational relationships, and supply chain integration. Then, the study applies an exploratory/investigational approach of multiple case studies and empirically examines how interpersonal relationships affect inter-organizational relationships and supply chain integration. Findings – The study proposes that interpersonal relationships can indirectly and positively influence supply chain integration, mediated by inter-organizational relationships. Personal affection acts as a relationship initiator, and personal credibility serves as a gatekeeper while personal communication works as a facilitator and plays more important roles than personal affection and credibility. Also, interpersonal relationships can initiate and enhance interorganizational relationships to enable supply chain integration. In the formative stage of supply chain integration, personal affection and credibility play key roles, whereas personal communication becomes more significant during the operational stage. Originality/value – The study advances supply chain integration literature by extending the focus from that of firm level to the level of individuals, and introduces interpersonal relationship dimensions to explore inner mechanisms of supply chain integration. It demonstrates that interpersonal relationships are able to initiate and motivate firm level integration, which modifies the presumption that firm level relationships are predominantly established first in Western cultural contexts. It also sheds light on applying theoretical lenses in supply chain integration. It extends social exchange theory from relationships between parties that are on the same level to different levels of interpersonal and inter-organizational relationships. Meanwhile, it applies resource dependency theory by addressing how interpersonal relationships influence dependence levels on supply chain partners to form firm level relationships. Furthermore, it extends resource orchestration theory by suggesting that inter-organizational relationships and interpersonal relationships can be orchestrated to achieve supply chain integration capabilities. Implications –The study provides insights for practitioners who have limited “hard” firm level resources. Managers should be aware of the significance and characteristics of interpersonal relationships, and decide when and how to deploy both interpersonal and interorganizational relationships as resources during the integration process. In the formative stage, managers should utilise boundary spanners with good personal credibility. More physical contact with counter-partners should be encouraged to foster personal affection, thus initiating the formation of inter-organizational relationships. In the operational stage, personal communication should be strengthened to facilitate the supply chain integration process. On the other hand, managers should mitigate the conflict between primary business interests and subordinate interpersonal friendships.
Chapter 2 was published as: Wang, B., Childerhouse, P., Kang, Y., Huo, B., & Mathrani, S. (2016). Enablers of supply chain integration: Interpersonal and interorganizational relationship perspectives, Industrial Management & Data Systems, 116(4), 838-855. Chapter 3 was published as: Wang, B., Kang, Y., Childerhouse, P., & Huo, B. (2018). Service supply chain integration: the role of interpersonal relationships, Industrial Management & Data Systems, 118(4), 828-849. Chapter 4 was published as: Wang, B., Kang, Y., Childerhouse, P., & Huo, B. (2018). Interpersonal and inter-organizational relationship drivers of supply chain integration, Industrial Management & Data Systems, 118(6), 1170-1191.
Business logistics, Management, Business networks, Interpersonal relations, Economic aspects