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John W. Barnes
The University of Texas at El Paso
El Paso, TX 79968
This research is part of a multi-country comparative study of strategic alliances in small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that seeks, through both qualitative and quantitative measures, to assess the validity of a theory-based model of strategic alliance behavior among (SMEs) in Mexico. More specifically, the research sets out to address the motivating forces compelling cooperative behavior among decision leaders of SMEs that are involved in strategic alliances, the attitudes, characteristics, and behaviors of decision leaders within SMEs involved in strategic alliances, as well as those of decision leaders within SMEs who do not wish to be involved in alliances. The principal goal is the development and testing of a descriptive model of alliance propensity among SMEs that accounts for regional, cultural, attitudinal, and structural differences. From a larger perspective, this study establishes significance in three key areas: (1) it will result in a multi-country data base allowing a strong consideration of cultural and national differences, (2) it places a primary emphasis upon cultural factors affecting both the formation and outcomes of strategic alliances, and (3) it focuses on small to medium-sized firms, which have seldom been studied.
A stratified-random sample of 160 key informants, or decision leaders of manufacturing SMEs in Northern Mexico was examined, representing a response rate of 40 percent of the sampling frame of 400 key informants. The study utilized an on-site structured interview methodology, in which the interviewer presented the key informant with a survey questionnaire, answered questions (within a prescribed research protocol), collected, dated, and coded the questionnaires. The data were collected at three sites representing manufacturing activity in Northern Mexico: Ciudad Juarez, Ciudad Chihuahua, and Monterrey. A survey questionnaire was first designed to test informants' attitudes, opinions, behaviors, and characteristics regarding strategic alliances, a well as cultural determinants, with alliance success as a dependent measure.
The instrument consisted of eight sections, requiring 25 to 30 minutes for completion. The first section elicited demographic information from the informant (industry type, percentage of exports outside Mexico, age, gender, organizational title, and language proficiency). The second section dealt with alliance use (i.e., the frequency of use of different types of strategic alliances) and section three addressed informant opinions regarding strategic alliances, utilizing five-point Likert-type scale measures. Strategic posture of the SME's management was measured using a five-point semantic differential scale, while section five focused on the informants' opinions regarding alliance success factors, utilizing a five-point importance scale. A semantic differential format was used again to assess informants' perceptions regarding environmental conditions and industry attractiveness, while cultural variables (e.g., degree of individualism within the SME) were measured in section six with five-point Likert-type measures. Perceived company performance was next measured, using a five-point importance scale, and the questionnaire concluded with summary questions (open-ended) regarding general SME data and organizational structure.
The general study outcome is to provide a basis for the assessment of a company's propensity toward forming strategic alliances. Analysis of the sample data collected to date is in progress. Expectations for findings are predicated on preliminary analysis of the sample data (160 observations) to date. General expected outcomes are that (1) opinions formed by informants about alliances (e.g., regarding commonality among partners, alliance necessity, relationship quality) will be related to alliance success/failure within Mexico, (2) strategic posture of the SME (e.g., product leadership, risk adversity, etc.) will be related to alliance success/failure within Mexico, (3) environmental conditions and degree of industry attractiveness will provide a determinant of alliance success/failure, (4) cultural variables related to strategic alliance formation will be related to alliance success/failure, and (5) perceptions of company performance will be related to alliance success/failure within Mexico.
The current study raises a number of implications of interest to current
and future research into global country-specific and cross-national strategic
alliances: (1) what are the specific factors that determine whether alliances
based in a particular country (in this study, Mexico) will succeed or fail?,
(2) what are the unique cultural factors that affect alliance behavior
in a particular country, (3) have past alliances been good or bad for businesses
in a particular country, and (4) what can be done to aid businesses in
a particular country in putting together viable, successful strategic alliances.