From Agents to Stewards? Experiences from a Dutch Infrastructure Case Study

Astrid Potemans, Leentje Volker, Marleen Hermans

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Abstract

In the construction industry clients largely depend on contractors to deliver projects. According to agency theory problems of goal conflict and information asymmetry arise in this delegation of work because both the principal and the agent are self- interested. The control-oriented governance mechanisms that agency theorists propose as a means to resolve these problems can act counterproductive and give rise to new problems. Stewardship theory offers a counterweight to agency theory and assumes a relational reciprocity between the principal and the steward. Recently, a large group of Dutch public construction clients and contractors have collaboratively expressed their desire to improve their relationship in a manifest called ‘the market vision’. This phenomenon can be interpreted as a desire to shift from a principal- agent towards a principal-steward relationship. The aim of this paper is to explore how public clients engage in stewardship relationships with contractors. This research is based on a case study of one of the most ambitious projects under the umbrella of this market vision trajectory. The analysis of the documents, observation notes and semi-structured interviews with project team members indicate that they developed a relationship which can be characterised as a principal-steward bond. By investing in relationship-building from the pre-commercial phase, throughout the tender phase and the execution phase, they put their individual differences beside in order to reach their initially defined common goal. It remains however to be seen whether this can be considered as a complete stewardship relation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings 34th Annual ARCOM Conference
EditorsChris Gorse, Christopher J. Neilson
Place of PublicationManchester, UK
PublisherARCOM, Association of Researchers in Construction Management
Pages475-484
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)978-0-9955463-2-5
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Event34th Annual ARCOM Conference - Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Sep 20185 Sep 2018

Conference

Conference34th Annual ARCOM Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom
CityBelfast
Period3/09/185/09/18

Keywords

  • agency theory
  • stewardship theory
  • public commissioning
  • partnering

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  • Cite this

    Potemans, A., Volker, L., & Hermans, M. (2018). From Agents to Stewards? Experiences from a Dutch Infrastructure Case Study. In C. Gorse, & C. J. Neilson (Eds.), Proceedings 34th Annual ARCOM Conference (pp. 475-484). ARCOM, Association of Researchers in Construction Management.