Clarification of what partnering is and its practical implications may help the construction industry to achieve the full benefits of this concept. The purpose of this study is to shed more light on how the partnering concept as practiced in real-life projects compares with the way partnering is described in the literature by exploring the hard (formal/contractual) elements of this concept. By this, we aim to identify discrepancies between theory and practice and help clear up the confusion that results from conflicting definitions of partnering. This investigation is based on a literature study and 39 interviews with respondents from 44 construction projects classified as partnering projects. Findings reveal that the discrepancies between theory and practice are remarkable: either the practitioners have misunderstood what partnering entails or the minimum requirements are too stringent and do not reflect the real-life use of the concept. Observation from case projects shows that no partnering hard element is applied in all studied projects. Partnering projects may share the partnering label, but use different sets of hard elements. Partnering can be identified as being present through a range of features, characteristics and interaction behaviors. This concept should be studied as an enacting strategy that can be adopted by various contract models rather than simply as an alternative contract form.
Keywords: Partnering, procurement, relational contract, collaboration