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Power regimes: A new perspective on managing in supply chains and networks

Andrew Cox, Joe Sanderson, and Glyn Watson

Abstract

This paper addresses two main research questions. The first is whether or not firms should attempt to manage the multiplicity of relationships in which they are directly and indirectly involved in their supply chains and networks. The second question, which assumes a positive answer to the first, is how and to what end should firms manage these multiple buyer-supplier relationships? Answers to these questions are proposed on the basis of a novel analytical framework for mapping and explaining the power dynamics of buyer-supplier relationships. The key original contribution made by this framewrok is that it looks beyond individual exchange dyads to consider interactions whithin an extended network of business relationships, which is referred to as a power regime. The utility of the power regimes framewrok is tested with case material from the aerospace industry. This case provides substantial evidence to support the proposition that power regimes are often composed of a number of interlocking, but discrete, management sub-regimes. The paper concludes that firms seeking to manage relationships with their customers and suppliers need to understand where the boundaries between these sub-regimes lie, because the possibility of managing a relationship that crossess a boundary is limited, at least in the short-term. This does not preclude the possibility, of course, that a sub-regime boundary might be moved over time by a firm's efforts to reconfigure the power structure of particular exchange dyads.

Keywords: Power regime, management sub-regime, supply chain, network, aerospace industry.