Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Business and Public Management

First Supervisor

Elizabeth Hatton

Second Supervisor

Brian Gibson

Third Supervisor

Robyn Morris


Strategic alliances are generally perceived as cooperative relationships constrained within the parameters of bounded rationality, seeking to maximise their levels of control in a turbulent economic environment. They are also commonly conceptualised as a means of creating competitive advantage in business. In regional areas of Western Australia they are favoured by government instrumentalities as a means of making small to medium enterprises (SMEs) more competitive. With the dominant global emphasis in the literature on big business, relatively little is known still about strategic alliances in small to medium enterprises. Moreover, the research on strategic alliances within Australia s also limited, and since 92 %or businesses in Australia arc SMEs (ABS 1999), there are significant gaps in the literature about a significant contributor to economic health or the nation. For these reasons this thesis focuses attention on SMEs in Australia, in particular the South West of Western Australia. This thesis is concerned with strategic alliance propensity in selected small to medium enterprises with less than 500 employees but three or more employees including family members. Mixed methodology data collection was used; based on an extensively validated international survey instrument, and a series of in-depth interviews. The outcome of the study was a synthesised model of SME strategic alliance decision-making which addresses the impacts on attitudes of SME Key Decision-Leaders choosing either positive or negative behaviours relating to strategic alliance formation. The development of this model, the Strategic Alliance Participation Paradigm (SAPP) was achieved through an iterative approach to environmental exploration, literature scanning and analysis and the application of a mixed methodological approach to data collection. Chapters One to Three present the development of the research questions and the research process adopted to address important elements or the research. Chapter Four presents the major consolidated findings based on factor analysed outcomes. Variables were subjected to logistic regression statistical analysis determining support for hypothesised research outcomes. In depth interviews provide evidence of the SME domain, in the context initially of the regional area under review. Conclusions arc further reviewed in the context or a recent significant Norwegian culturally based survey. The Strategic Alliance Participation Paradigm reflects the work carried out by a small group of earlier researchers, and further, empirically tests the determinants of SME Key-Decision-Leader strategic alliance behaviour. Recommendations for future research developed from the research findings arc presented in Chapter Five supporting the conclusions und implications of this study for future SME strategic alliance research both regional and global. Benefits from this process will be seen in the enhanced ability to benchmark at source regional differences and similarities, and thereby to further enhance the value of the outcomes to scholars and practitioners. Researchers could do well to pursue understanding of identified gaps in knowledge and to cooperate with industry to enhance alliance behaviour, achieving benefits through philosophy of competitive tendering. Significant within the outcomes however, was the identified need to research ways to support and grow the large sector of Australian business, the small to medium enterprise.

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