Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Management


Continuity in interorganisational cooperation was the focus of this thesis. The research aimed to contribute to interorganisational theory and practice with respect to the governance of informal business alliances. The question addressed the extent to which alliances are maintained by organisational interdependence, satisfaction with the exchange relation and compliance with 'norms of practice'. A multi-theoretical framework was developed for analysis of generalist-specialist alliances in the health industry and a study research design was employed involving the collection of quantitative and qualitative data from four networks. A randomised survey of generalists within two urban networks identified alliances and explored issues in alliance maintenance. In addition, qualitative data was gained by structured interview from randomly selected subsets of the generalist samples and from specialists with whom they had alliances. The study found that the norms of practice governing generalist-specialist alliances were of central importance. Norms of practice included timely and educative communications, clinical competence, evidence that the partner could be trusted and an exchange environment which supported learning and mutual respect. Furthermore, the study found that alliances are more prevalent where there is greater interdependence between network members and that level of interdependence is positively associated with satisfaction and with compliance with norms of practice. It is concluded that social exchange theory in combination with network analysis, coordination theory and interorganisational knowledge provide a suitable conceptual basis for a study of continuity in interorganisational cooperation. The thesis confirms the robust nature of social exchange theory by finding a positive association between generalist satisfaction with an exchange relation and level of interdependence and extends interorganisational theory building by finding that norms of practice governing alliances are central in the mediation of rewards.