Agent and Task Complexity in Multilateral Alliances: The Safeguarding Role of Equity Governance Academic Article uri icon


  • 2017 Elsevier Inc. Multilateral alliances are an inherently complex organizational form; managing these complexities is particularly difficult for alliance partners because alliances are plagued by both internal and external uncertainty. Using insights from transaction cost economics, our study identifies, articulates and tests different forms of alliance complexity and their impacts on alliance governance structure. Specifically, we investigate two forms of alliance complexity: agent and task. We decompose agent complexity into organizational and partner complexity, and decompose task complexity into geographic, transaction and technological complexity. Using a sample of 327 trilateral alliances, the most frequent form of multilateral alliances, we find that three forms of alliance complexity involving internal uncertainty (organizational, partner and technological complexity) favor equity-based governance, whereas external uncertainty in the form of geographic complexity discourages equity-based governance.

published proceedings

  • Journal of International Management

author list (cited authors)

  • Li, D., Eden, L., & Josefy, M.

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • Li, Dan||Eden, Lorraine||Josefy, Matthew

publication date

  • September 2017