Making agency theory work for supply chain relationships: a systematic review across four disciplines

Juri Matinheikki*, Katri Kauppi, Alistair Brandon–Jones, Erik M. van Raaij

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
84 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Contemporary supply chain relationships inherently rely on delegation of work between organizations and, thus, are subject to agency problems for which a wide range of governance mechanisms exist. This review of agency theory (AT), across four distinct fields, explains the connection between governance mechanisms and supply chain relationship types. Design/methodology/approach: The study uses a systematic literature review (SLR) of articles using AT in a supply chain context from the operations and supply chain management, general management, marketing, and economics fields. Findings: The authors categorize the governance mechanisms identified to create a typology of agency relationships in supply chains. Research limitations/implications: The developed typology provides parsimonious theory on different forms of supply chain agency relationships and takes a step towards a “supply chain-oriented agency theory” explaining and predicting relationship types and governance in supply chains. Furthermore, a future research agenda calls for more accurate measuring of agency costs, to examine residual gains alongside residual losses, to take a dual-sided perspective of agency relations and to adopt AT to examine more complex supply networks. Practical implications: The review provides a menu of governance mechanisms and describes situations under which these mechanisms could be deployed to guide managers when developing their supply chain relationships. Originality/value: The first review to combine and elaborate views from four major disciplines using AT as a lens to supply chain relationships. Expanding the traditional set of governance mechanisms provides academics and practitioners with a bigger “menu” of options to consider.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-334
Number of pages36
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Agency theory
  • Buyer-supplier relationships
  • Information asymmetry
  • Supply chain relationships
  • Systematic literature review


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