Success factors in collaborative relationships (alliancing and partnering) in the UK upstream oil and gas industry, and perception of trust
This thesis concerns the characteristics of the collaborative relationships (partnering and alliances) between oil companies and their contractors which were popular in the UK oil and gas industry in the 1990s. It also considers the nature and role of trust in such relationships. Over the last fifteen years companies in the UK oil and gas industry have been collaborating to enhance the sustainability of the industry. They have perceived some of the collaborative relationships to have been highly successful whereas others have been considered as failures. However, there is little firm evidence on what factors relate to success and failure or how success and failure have been defined. The thesis discusses the special features of the collaborative relationships in the industry and the difficulty of developing a precise definition for them or for their success. It is also recognised that some factors can be seen as critical to success but that their presence may also be seen as an indicator of success, and this potential circularity is discussed within the thesis. The first phase of the research was undertaken in September 1999 to find out the distinguishing features of alliancing and partnering and the factors that have been associated with their success and failure. Using a self-administered questionnaire, mostly qualitative free-text data were collected from a sample drawn randomly from three different sets of people associated with the industry. Information was extracted from the qualitative data through content analysis. The first phase indicated that, in general, performance level i. e. achievement of goals expressed in terms of cost saving, time, and safety level; sharing risks and rewards; and acquiring more business is the broadly used criterion for measuring success or failure of alliances in the industry. Presence of trust was found to be the most important factor for enabling success of an alliance and it was followed by shared and aligned goals, open behaviour, shared knowledge, clear role, commitment of members, co-operative behaviour and honesty. Factors which often cause failure are absence of shared, aligned and clear goals, absence of trusting attitude, absence of open communication, presence of un-addressed cultural differences, and absence of strong proactive leadership. The second phase of the study was undertaken because both the literature and the results of the first phase identified presence of trust as a very important success factor in collaborative relationships. Its aim was to understand peoples' perception of trust and its role in collaborative relationships with the following research questions: "What do people mean when they speak or think about trust in the industry? ", "What are the effects of presence of trust in collaborative relationships? " and "What needs to be done to maintain trust in relationships? " Data for the second phase was collected in July 2001 from five collaborative relationships, involving 21 companies from the upstream oil and gas industry, through a questionnaire survey and appropriate statistical methods were used to analyse the data. The findings suggest that people give high priority to the following types of trust; contractual trust, competence trust, process-based trust, strong form of trust and cognitive trust. The findings also suggest a method for dividing people into those with trusting attitudes and those with non-trusting attitudes. The second phase used factors identified in the first phase to attempt to measure perceived levels of trust and perceived levels of success in the relationships of the people surveyed. A strong positive link between the perceived level of trust in an alliance and its perceived success was identified from the data. The thesis includes a review of the research process used and reflects on lessons learned and improvements which could have been made. Areas for further research which build on the work in this thesis are suggested.