Despite the potential of inter-organisational collaboration to create 'collaborative advantage' among participant organisations, not all collaborations realise this potential due to the complexities and challenges faced by potential collaborators. To address these difficulties and increase the likelihood of collaborative success, different forms of intervention approaches for fostering inter-organisational collaboration has been advocated by collaboration researchers and practitioners. These intervention approaches all facilitate interaction and consensus formation among the participants. However their 'added value' is procedural rather than substantive in nature. They do not incorporate tools which can enable participants to structure the complexity of the web of factors that are implicated in their collaboration, and thus make it more manageable. This paper argues that problem structuring methods (PSMs), a family of model-based approaches to group decision and negotiation support, are a form of intervention which can provide a balanced attention to both the process and the content of inter-organisational collaboration, and reports the experience of applying a particular PSM to an inter-organisational collaborative partnership in the UK construction industry. Drawing on the rich data generated from the intervention, the paper discusses the impact of the PSM in supporting the joint appreciation activities carried out by collaborators to address their problematic situation. Implications of the experience for the research and practice of PSMs within collaborative contexts are then presented.
- Group decision and negotiation support
- Inter-organisational collaboration
- Problem structuring methods