The emergence of partnering in construction practice: an activity theory perspective

Andreas Hartmann, Mike Bresnen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Over the last decades, interest has increased enormously in collaborative arrangements subsumed under the term partnering. Recent critics have stated that prescriptive approaches dominate the discussion on partnering in construction. There is a lack of multiple perspectives on the partnering phenomenon including its economic, social, organizational and institutional contexts. Taking this criticism as a starting point, the collaborative practice in a road maintenance contract is investigated from an activity theory perspective. The research findings show that partnering is transient and transformative in nature and that its emergence depends on the individual, organizational and activity-related circumstances of social interaction. The need for a collaborative relationship particularly contradicts and challenges the behaviour and working style that individuals had internalized and been used to. Hence, partnering development is not only a matter of learning new knowledge and adjusting existing working processes. It also requires discarding old routines and behaviour and overcoming vicious circles of reinforcing perceptions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-52
Number of pages12
JournalEngineering project organization journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • IR-104313
  • Activity theory
  • ethnographic case study
  • partnering
  • METIS-276532


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