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Beyond Hybridity: Accounting for the Values Complexity of All Organizations in the Study of Mission and Mission Drift

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Cecelia Varendh-Mansson (Cecilia.Varendh-
University of Oxford
Tyler Wry (
University of Pennsylvania
Ariane Szafarz (
Universite Libre de Bruxelles
Beyond Hybridity: Accounting for the
Values Complexity of All Organizations
in the Study of Mission and Mission Drift
Mission driftthe perceived discontinuity be-
tween an organizations actions and its identity
continues to garner attention primarily from
234 JanuaryAcademy of Management Review
scholars interested in understanding why hybrid
organizationsfocused on creating social and
environmental value shift away from such
value creation (Ebrahim, Battilana, & Mair, 2015;
Wolf & Mair, 2019; Wry & Zhao, 2018). Our recent
study of mission drift (Grimes, Williams, &
Zhao, 2019) broadens this discussion by theoreti-
cally grounding mission drift in long-standing
research on organizational identity and adapta-
tion, unpacking different types of mission drift,
and theorizing about why such drift occurs
and how organizations might respond. In their
respone to our article, Varendh-Mansson, Wry,
and Szafarzs primary critique suggests that our
theorizing is built on a shaky foundationbased
on the premise that mission should not be con-
ceptualized in simplistic terms as an organiza-
tions single, orienting purpose(2020: 230). In
making this argument, the authors reference the
literature on hybrid organizing and the distinction
this literature often draws between organizations
with a single purpose (e.g., economic) and those
with two or more purposes (e.g., economic, social,
environmental). Although our desire is not to re-
peat ourselves, we are grateful for the opportunity
in this dialogue to clarify how our prior article not
only addresses Varendh-Mansson et al.s primary
critique but also moves beyond the authorsas-
sumptions regarding the multiplex nature of or-
ganizationsmissions. After responding to this
definitional issue, we then focus the remainder of
this dialogue on advancing scholarship on mis-
sion drift by drawing on two additional important
questions raised in Varendh-Mansson et al.s
Given Varendh-Mansson et al.s stated desire to
better theorize the concept of mission, we were sur-
prised with their lack of reference to and, thus, ap-
parent mischaracterization of our actual definition
of organizational mission. Specifically, we defined
organizational mission by noting that it serves
as a sociocognitive bridge between [the organi-
zations] identity and its actions by specifying
why the organization should exist and how it
should act (i.e., purpose), thereby focusing mem-
bersattention and intentions in such a way that
actions proceed from identity(2019: 819). To
be clear, to argue that a mission might seek to
specify an organizations purpose is not in any
way to argue that such a purpose must be singular
or unidimensional.
Yet to the extent our definition might be inter-
preted equivocally such that Varendh-Mansson
et al. might have inferred our definition of mission
as implying its unidimensionality, we believe the
proceeding arguments in which we consistently
reference the multiplicity of values that guide
every organization should have resolved any
such potential for misinterpretation. For instance,
we state, As is the case for most if not all orga-
nizations, instead of being guided by a small
number of stable and unambiguous values, or-
ganizations are instead confronted by multiple
coexisting, dynamic, and often times incompati-
ble values,which we argue operate both inter-
nally and externally to the organization (2019: 825).
Importantly, we believe this emphasis on the
multiplicity of values in and outside of organiza-
tions offers a stronger foundation from which to
theorize about the multiplex nature of organiza-
tional missiona foundation that is not premised
on what we perceive as a false dichotomy be-
tween singular and multipurposed organizations.
Although we of course welcome improvements
to our stated definition of organizational mis-
sion, Varendh-Mansson et al. do not offer a precise
alternative other than to state that mission is a
nuanced and variegated construct(2020: 230)a
premise we readily agree with and one we be-
lieve is fully commensurate with our existing arti-
cle and definition. Ultimately, we concur with
Varendh-Mansson et al. in their call for research
upstreamthat offers even more clarity about the
nature of organizational mission(s), as well as a
greater understanding of how and under what con-
ditions such missions increase alignment between
organizational actions and organizational identities.
We believe future research focused on upstream
topics can build on, extend, and clarify our argu-
ments regarding the importance of values com-
plexity to organizationsidentities, actions, and
missions. We now take the opportunity to respond
to two additional and important questions raised
by Varendh-Mansson et al.
Part of what animates Varendh-Mansson et al.s
critique is the possibility that our article blurs the
lines between mission drift and strategic change.
Implicit in this argument is an assumption that
2020 235Dialogue
strategic change represents intentional and de-
liberate action on the part of leaders and organi-
zational members, whereas mission drift occurs
only when those individuals stop acting inten-
tionally. However, we believe this assumption is
faulty for three reasons. First, it fails to consider
the potential for unintended outcomes from in-
tentional or deliberate action (Osborn & Jackson,
1988; Perrow, 1984). Specifically, it is clear that
intentional action at one level of an organization
might result in unintentional change or deviance
at another level of that organization (Siggelkow &
Rivkin, 2006). For instance, consider the relation-
ship between strategies and tactics. While tactics
may follow from their respective strategies, most
would acknowledge the agency of individual ac-
tors to intentionally deviate tactically in ways that
do not correspond to a particular strategy. Simi-
larly, because organizational identities exist at a
higher level of abstraction than organizational
strategy, it is possible (and perhaps even proba-
ble) that intentional organizational strategies
will at times deviate from those identities, thereby
unintentionally creating the perceived misalign-
ment between organizational action and identity.
Such perceived misalignment, we argue, is char-
acteristic of mission drift.
Second, the characterization of strategic change
as intentional (in contrast to mission drift) does
not consider how strategic change is often highly
determined. As Mintzberg and Waters noted:
Many planned strategies in fact seem to have this
determined quality to thempursued by organi-
zations resigned to co-operating with external
forces. One is reminded here of the king in the
Saint-Exupery (1946) story of The Little Prince, who
only gave orders that could be executed. He
claimed, for example, that he could order the sun to
set, but only at a certain time of the day. The point
is that when intentions are sufficiently malleable,
everything can seem deliberate (1985: 268).
Therefore, it could be argued that assumptions
of intentionality in strategic actions are, at a
minimum, overstated and, at worst, grossly ex-
aggerated (Balogun & Johnson, 2005). As such,
there is considerable opportunity to explore
the effects of strategic action that is framed by
the organization and its leaders as intentional
yet appears to be driven by forces that leave
little room for agency or intentionality. For in-
stance, drawing on Mintzberg and Waters (1985),
scholars might ask under what conditions stra-
tegic intentions become sufficiently malleable
such that strategic actions are more likely to ca-
ter to exogenous forces rather than uphold the
organizations identity.
Third, the assumption fails to consider how
audiences may perceive an organizationsac-
tions as lacking intentionality, regardless of
whether those actions were strategic and/or in-
tentional. In other words, mission drift is difficult
to determine objectively and, as such, can be
more usefully represented as a type of audience
judgment of organizations and their actions
judgments that are the focus of our article
(Grimes et al., 2019). And, thus, as we previously
argued, it is the perception of intentionality that
is likely to shape judgments of mission drift,
rather than the actual intentionality exhibited
by organizations.
This third point, we believe, holds important
implications for future empirical research on the
topic of mission drift. Should scholars wish to
study mission drift, how might they go about
theoretically conceptualizing and empirically
capturing instances of such drift? We suggest two
possibilities, both of which account for the eval-
uatory or reputational nature of the construct.
First, one possibility is to study mission drift as a
socially constructed outcome linked to organiza-
tional legitimacy. In this way, stakeholder judg-
ments of the alignment between an organizations
actions and its image should be captured. The
degree of consensus and cultural diffusion of such
judgments would then provide scholars with an
opportunity to comment on the reputational or
legitimacy-related liabilities of those judgments.
Second, another possibility is to study mission
drift as a feature of organizational action that can
be captured and studied separately from stake-
holder perceptions and judgments. To do so re-
quires care, since this approach essentially
places scholars in the role of evaluating how and
in what ways the organizations actions have de-
viated from its identitya difficult role, given the
typical need for rich, longitudinal data to assess
any identity changes that may or may not have
preceded inconsistent organizational action. Al-
though there are various ways to go about this
process, we would encourage future research to
make use of organizationspublicized mission
statements as a particularly important artifact
by which those organizations seek to clarify the
central and distinctive values they wish to uphold
(Besharov, 2014). And web archives now make it
increasingly easy for scholars to track changes to
236 JanuaryAcademy of Management Review
these statements over time. In concert with such
data collection, scholars might then measure and
model shifts in patterns of organizational actions
over time using in-depth longitudinal and quali-
tative research or drawing on third-party evalu-
ations of those patterns, such as those available
in MSCIs ESG datasets (
In sum, we propose that strategic change and
mission drift are fundamentally distinct con-
structs, yet they can have important interdepen-
dencies. As such, strategic change may or may not
result in mission drift, depending on whether the
ensuing actions deviate from the respective or-
ganizations identity and, perhaps more critically,
the extent to which audiences perceive those
actions as deviating from that identity.
In general, we would like to join Varendh-Mansson
et al.s call for future work testing the contextual
applicability of the propositions laid out by our
theory. We would hope, for instance, that such
work would expose important contingencies or
boundary conditions of that theory. As such, with
the desire to advance scholarship in this area,
we take the opportunity to (1) respond directly to
Varendh-Mansson et al.s proposed boundary
condition and (2) introduce several possible con-
ditions of our own.
Responding to Varendh-Mansson et al.s
Proposed Boundary Condition
As stated in the beginning of this dialogue,
Varendh-Mansson et al.s arguments are largely
based on the assumption that our theory and the
relationships we proposed would apply exclu-
sively to the context of organizations with singu-
lar or unidimensional missions. Yet, as we noted
earlier, we believe very few organizations are
likely to operate under such conditions. Indeed, to
suggest that our theory of mission drift is contingent
on whether an organization operates according to
a singular mission or according to multiple mis-
sions would require embracing a seemingly false
dichotomy (Battilana, Besharov, & Mitzinneck,
2017). As such, if we acknowledge that all orga-
nizationsmissions are to some extent multidi-
mensional and exposed to values complexity both
inside and outside those organizations (Barney,
2018), we see little reason to bound our theory of
mission drift to unidimensionalorganizations.
However, is it likely that our theory of mission
drift would apply in contexts where there is a high
degree of values complexity, such as social en-
trepreneurship? For the sake of brevity, we will
consider our proposed main effectthat by ex-
posing misalignment between the organizations
identity and its audiences, values-based com-
plexity increases an organizations propensity for
inconsistent organizational action(2019: 826).
And let us take the microfinance sector as a
seminal example of social entrepreneurship and
of a setting with a high degree of values com-
plexity. As this sector grew across the last several
decades, many commercially oriented investors
became enticed by the opportunities for financial
gains. However, such gains were premised on
minimizing the risks often associated with lend-
ing to the poor and vulnerable. As such, to attract
these commercial investment sources, a number
of microfinance institutions have shifted their
loans away from the most vulnerable customers,
who had previously comprised the core of their
lending portfolio (Armend ´
ariz & Szafarz, 2011;
Wry & Zhao, 2018). In sum, as our proposition
predicts, the values misalignment between capital
providers and lending institutions was accentu-
ated in this setting characterized by high values
complexity, leading to inconsistent action, which
at present many audiences interpret as mission
drift (Beisland, DEspallier, & Mersland, 2019).
Clearly, as Varendh-Mansson et al. indicate,
there is the capacity for productive tensions
within settings of values-based complexity like
this such that mission drift might be avoided,
and yet Varendh-Mansson et al. appear to incor-
rectly attribute these productive tensions to the
mere presence of values complexity. Smith and
Besharovs (2019) case study of the social enter-
prise Digital Divide, for instance, does not illus-
trate how the mere presence of groups with
divergent values prevents one set of interests
from dominating over others; on the contrary, the
study illustrates the arduous and ongoing work
that continues to be necessary within this orga-
nization to ensure that one set of interests does not
dominate over others amid such diversity. In sum,
we believe that a closer look at our theorization of
the antecedents of mission drift emphasizes the
relevance of our argumentation to fields such as
social enterprise, which many have labeled as
hybrid organizations.
2020 237Dialogue
Our Proposed Boundary Conditions
While we disagree with the boundary condi-
tions suggested by Varendh-Mansson et al., we
continue to recognize opportunities to refine
our theory through empirical testing and/or
further conceptual work. Indeed, the back half
of our proposed model of mission drift and
mission work raises opportunities for further
scholarly advancement by theorizing the rela-
tionship between different types of inconsistent
action and perceived mission drift. Although
we drew on existing research on the requisite
variety of complex systems to support our
premise that core changes in an organization
might be viewed by audiences as responsive,
our study also recognizes the capacity for such
inconsistent action to introduce risks, inas-
much as they lead audiences to question that
organizations authenticity (Barnett & Carroll,
1995; Hannan & Freeman, 1984). A deeper un-
derstanding of the conditions that encourage
audiences to focus on either an organizations
authenticity or responsiveness when evaluat-
ing an inconsistent action would clearly help
to push scholarship forward in this area. Our
model also suggested particular types of mission
work that may help organizations overcome
or address perceived mission drift; however,
there may be conditions that importantly mod-
erate the effectiveness of such reactive work.
For instance, as we previously argued, there
may be settings where audiences perceive in-
consistent action not merely as a violation of
the organizations image but also as a violation
of some threshold standard of appropriate be-
havior(2019: 830). It may be, for instance, that in
those settings where mission drift is viewed in
terms of moral or ethical failure (e.g., social en-
trepreneurship), mission work may prove less
To conclude, we wish to once again express
gratitude to Varendh-Mansson et al. for pushing
this conversation forward. We, too, see much
room for continued debate and refinement re-
garding existing scholarly understanding of
mission and mission drift. We are particularly
hopeful that this debate and refinement will be
inclusivemoving beyond the exclusive pur-
view of research on hybrid organizations”—
recognizing the challenges (and opportunities)
faced by all organizations in responding to and
navigating values-based complexity.
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Matthew G. Grimes (
University of Cambridge
Trenton Alma Williams (
Eric Yanfei Zhao (
Indiana University
CEO Retirement: Definition, Discretion,
and Routes
In the The Final Countdown: Regulatory Focus
and the Phases of CEO Retirement,Bilgili,
Campbell, OLeary-Kelly, Ellstrand, and Johnson
(2020) build on upper echelons and regulatory
focus theory (Crowe & Higgins, 1997) to examine
the effect of CEOspromotion and prevention focus
on the timing, pace, and nature of their retirement.
Adding the concept of liminality, the authors con-
ceptualize top executive retirement as a multi-
phase process. While we welcome their work on
the psychology of departing executives, we aim
to complement Bilgili et al.s framework to allow
for an even broader theoretical opportunity. In
particular, we offer to expand their model by
relaxing their assumption that CEOs have large
discretion over their retirement and by problem-
atizing their single route of CEO retirement.
Bilgili et al. define the process of CEO re-
tirement but do not define their central construct
of CEO retirement, which has also not yet been
defined in the literature. To strengthen construct
clarity (Suddaby, 2010), we adapt Feldmans
(1994: 287, 288) understanding of employee
retirement to define CEO retirement as the
termination of a CEO contract or career path
with the consequence of reduced commitment to
chief executive work thereafter. This definition
differs from Feldman (1994) in three main as-
pects, other than including the term chief exec-
utive. First, it does not require the contract or
career path to be of a minimum duration to ac-
count for CEO departures that can occur quickly
(Gibbons & Murphy, 1992: 482). Second, it ex-
cludes an age restriction to account for cases
of relatively young CEOssuch as start-up
founderswho enter CEO retirement early.
Third, it includes the fact that CEO retirement
can be initiated by the CEO or another force
such as the board (Friedman, & Singh, 1989: 723,
730). The above understanding of CEO re-
tirement leads us to reconsider CEOscontrol
over their retirement process as well as alter-
native retirement routes.
Bilgili et al. identify CEO past achievements as
a contingency across CEOsretirement pathways
in Propositions 7a and 7b. While we support their
argument, we additionally stress that CEO past
achievementsamong other conditionsgreatly
influence CEO discretion over the retirement pro-
cess. Bilgili et al. build their framework of CEO
retirement on the assumption that CEOs have sub-
stantial discretion over when to step down from
their postand over succession-related decisions
(2020: 64, 59). This underemphasized assumption has
important consequences for the theorization of CEO
retirement, and we propose to question it in two
First, the assumption of CEO substantial dis-
cretion is often not met in practice. Once a CEOs
past service to the company disappoints share-
holders and/or other stakeholders, CEO discretion
may vanish (Friedman & Singh, 1989), potentially
triggering CEO departure (see our Figure 1)as
opposed to private deliberation (Bilgili et al.,
2020: 63, Figure 1). This still holds for bad firm
performance caused by factors beyond their
control(Jenter & Kanaan, 2015: 2155). Hence, we
propose that a CEOs attributed performance
that violates the expectations of others de-
creases CEO discretion during the phases of their
retirement. Importantly, many CEO firings are
described by companies in neutral, often euphe-
mistic, terms(Wowak, Hambrick, & Henderson,
Both authors contributed equally to this dialogue. We grate-
fully acknowledge Thomas Roulet, Nadine Kammerlander, and
Sabine Rau for their very helpful comments on earlier versions.
2020 239Dialogue
... Social-business tensions stem from contradictions in values (Besharov and Smith 2014), identity (Jacobs, Kreutzer, and Vaara 2021;Tracey and Phillips 2016) and mindsets (Olsen and Boxenbaum 2009), organisational practices (Battilana 2010), cognitive frames (Hahn et al. 2014), investor expectations (Harjula 2005) or decision-making horizons (Slawinski and Bansal 2015). Tensions arise, for example, when a focus on profit-seeking, managerialist activities exposes social enterprises to the risk of 'mission drift,' that is, neglecting their original social mission in favour of financial gains (Grimes, Williams, and Zhao 2020). ...
... Our study contributes to the debate on mission drift and how social enterprises can sustain their hybridity over time (Ometto et al. 2019; and prevent mission drift (Grimes, Williams, and Zhao 2020). ...
... Moving beyond the conventional assumption that social enterprises try to balance social and business objectives most of the time, we show how a promising start-up in India re-calibrated their balance various times during growth and avoided mission drift (Ebrahim, Battilana, and Mair 2014;Grimes, Williams, and Zhao 2020). Prioritising the social side and anticipating social-business tensions were powerful means to keep the organisation on track. ...
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The scaling up of a social enterprise is a dynamic process that often involves tensions resulting from the divergent social and business logics inherently present in social enterprises. We analysed extensive data covering a period of more than 10 years’ journey of an affordable housing finance organisation in India. We identify four phases of the scaling up process of the venture and highlight three areas where the social-business tensions arise in: (i) human resources, (ii) organising and (iii) investor expectations. Our process model illustrates how the organisation developed different responses to mitigate these tensions in different phases and avoid mission drift. These responses include prioritising the social side, half-hearted balancing, accepting growth limitation and anticipating social-business tensions.
... Until now, there has been inadequate understanding of how SMEs manage their identity in the context of divergent needs related to digital technology usage (Hund, 2022;Klein et al., 2021;Vial, 2019). Therefore, more research is needed to clarify successful SME management of mission and vision statements to align their organizational identities in the "identity-challenging landscape of digital technologies" (Grimes et al., 2020). ...
... However, vision is defined as the "desired future state of an organization" (Johnson et al., 2005: 243). Consequently, mission and vision are essential for every company to inspire future organizational growth (Grimes et al., 2020). Furthermore, although the mission statement is a pervasive attribute of many firms, there are numerous tags because each firm emphasizes diverse themes in its mission statement (Berbegal-Mirabent et al., 2021). ...
... In comparison, a vision statement represents the futuristic aspects of a company and where it wants to stand (Toh et al., 2022). Substitute labels comprise vision statements that represent the firm's prospects and objectives (Grimes et al., 2020). Endeavoring to delineate the distinctions, scholars (Braun et al., 2012;Toh et al., 2022) affirmed that a mission statement represents the organization's reason for existence (raison d´être). ...
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Purpose This study aims to examine the current state of mission and vision statements on the company websites of fast-growing Malaysian and Singaporean small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and analyze how these attributes are functionally used to build a distinct digital organizational identity. Design/methodology/approach The content analysis method was used to examine the similarities and differences among 170 Malaysian and Singaporean-selected SMEs based on Aaker’s five brand personality scales. Findings The findings demonstrated that there were explicit discrepancies between Malaysian and Singaporean SMEs in the applications of brand personality attributes. The findings also identified an increase in communicating mission and vision statements on the websites of both Malaysian and Singaporean SMEs. This emphasizes the need for Malaysian and Singaporean companies to intensify their efforts to develop a notable digital organizational identity. Research limitations/implications This study endeavors to provide novel insights into the digital communication practices of SMEs in building digital organization identity based on brand personality elements. Therefore, this study theoretically advances Aaker’s brand personality framework by incorporating digital organizational identity as a concept of Aaker’s brand personality from the SME perspective. This study contributes to the organizational identity literature by highlighting the need for these SMEs to integrate brand personality dimensions to compete with leading global companies. Practical implications The findings indicate that managers of SMEs can develop a unique digital organizational identity by communicating their vision and mission statements on their websites as a strategic asset for sustaining corporate reputation. Originality/value To date, little is known about the inevitable adaptation and application of communication that occurs when using digital means to develop a digital organizational identity. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to establish how Asian SMEs communicate their unique brand personality through websites to build their digital organizational identity.
... Tant la variété des situations à surveiller que la manière d'aborder les changements lorsqu'ils se produisent semblent toutefois encore mal comprises (Copestake, 2007;Grimes et al., 2020). Compte tenu de la variété des situations rencontrées, il semble difficile de statuer a priori, si les changements observables doivent être considérés comme des dérives ou non. ...
... Un des enjeux consiste par exemple à garantir du bon équilibre accordé aux activités de reddition, en s'assurant par exemple de la considération accordée aux bénéficiaires de l'action sociale (downward accountability), surtout étant entendu la prévalence actuelle des activités de reddition organisées vis-à-vis des bailleurs de fonds et des actionnaires (qualifiées de upward accountability) elles découlent de chaque logique impliquée. La focalisation du débat sur la protection de l'hybridité dans le cadre de l'entreprise sociale a eu pour effet d'appréhender la gestion de la mission au prisme de l'antagonisme entre les différents objectifs qui procèdent de logiques institutionnelles distinctes (Grimes et al. 2020). Dans ce cadre, au sein de l'entreprise sociale, l'articulation entre mission (sociale) et profit apparait conflictuelle sinon antagonique, car émanant de deux logiques distinctes. ...
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À l’instar de la France, de nombreux pays proposent désormais des cadres juridiques qui permettent aux sociétés commerciales de s’engager sur une finalité opposable ou « mission » qui ne se résume pas à la poursuite de leurs simples profits. Cette innovation juridique donne lieu aujourd’hui à l’expression de missions très variées, autant sur le fond que la forme. Le droit a en effet laissé une grande liberté aux entreprises à cet égard. L’analyse des premières formes tend à montrer que l’élaboration d’une mission soulève des défis importants : comment définir des engagements pérennes dans des environnements par nature turbulents, et a fortiori quand l’entreprise se donne des objectifs de rupture ou d’innovation ? L’objet de cette thèse est de caractériser les principes et les méthodes qui permettent de formuler une mission conciliant engagement pérenne et contrôlable, et qui en même temps favorise l’innovation. Partant de cas historiques et contemporains d’engagements génératifs, la thèse analyse des cas de dérives par rapport à une mission et leurs causes. Elle propose une modélisation de la mission qui permet alors de caractériser les principaux écueils des formulations de missions. L’analyse montre qu’ils sont liés d’une part au caractère partiellement inconnu des objets sur lesquels portent les promesses et d’autre part aux interrelations entre ces objets. Ce modèle rend donc compte des différents types de missions et de leurs risques associés. Ce travail de recherche permet aussi d’analyser les méthodes déployées par les entreprises pour formuler leur mission et proposer des voies pour surmonter les écueils identifiés. En particulier, la thèse suggère des mises à l’épreuve systématiques des formulations selon une modalité double, soit en éclairant des zones inconnues, soit en montrant les propagations possibles des promesses et les risques de contradictions qu’elles génèrent. La thèse dégage ainsi des propositions méthodologiques pour assurer la cohérence entre les promesses et la possibilité de juger de l’intégrité des conduites futures. ---- Many countries, such as France, now offer legal frameworks that allow business corporations to commit to an opposable purpose or « mission » that goes beyond the mere pursuit of profits. This legal innovation now gives rise to the development of a wide variety of purposes, both in terms of form and content. Indeed, the law has given considerable freedom to companies in this respect. The analysis of the first forms tends to show that the elaboration of a mission raises important challenges: how to define long-lasting commitments in turbulent environments, and a fortiori when the company gives itself objectives of rupture or innovation? The aim of this thesis is to characterize the principles and methods for formulating a mission that reconciles sustainable and controllable commitments, and which at the same time promotes innovation. Starting with historical and contemporary cases of generative engagements, the thesis analyzes cases of mission drift and their causes. It proposes a mission model that enables the characterization of the main pitfalls of mission formulations. The analysis shows that they are linked on the one hand to the partially unknown character of the objects on which the promises are made and on the other hand to the interrelations between these objects. This model thus accounts for the different types of missions and their associated risks. This research work also provides an opportunity to analyze the methods used by companies to formulate their mission and to propose ways to overcome the pitfalls identified. In particular, the thesis suggests systematically testing the formulations in a double modality, either by shedding light on unknown areas, or by showing the possible propagations of the promises and the risks of contradictions they generate. The thesis draws out some methodological proposals to ensure the coherence between promises and the possibility of judging the integrity of future conduct.
... Relying on a utilitarian logic to maximize the overall social value creations might produce moral compromises such as denying services to those who cannot afford them, neglecting those who are costly to serve, and suppressing or abating ambiguous programs with difficult-to-measure outcomes or a slow progress rate (Zahra et al., 2009). The strong financial sustainability orientation of social entrepreneurs could lead to a greater emphasis on developing profitable business models at the expense of social mission, a phenomenon known as mission drift (Ebrahim et al., 2014;Grimes et al., 2020;Ramus and Vaccaro, 2017). Mission drift highlights process-related ethical dilemmas, as a focus on growth and scale may force SEs to shift their focus from resource-poor beneficiaries to their key clients (Ebrahim et al., 2014;Grimes et al., 2020), thus diluting their ethics of care to beneficiaries (André and Pache, 2016). ...
... The strong financial sustainability orientation of social entrepreneurs could lead to a greater emphasis on developing profitable business models at the expense of social mission, a phenomenon known as mission drift (Ebrahim et al., 2014;Grimes et al., 2020;Ramus and Vaccaro, 2017). Mission drift highlights process-related ethical dilemmas, as a focus on growth and scale may force SEs to shift their focus from resource-poor beneficiaries to their key clients (Ebrahim et al., 2014;Grimes et al., 2020), thus diluting their ethics of care to beneficiaries (André and Pache, 2016). Fig. 1 shows the various ethical dilemmas social entrepreneurs are likely to encounter. ...
Social entrepreneurs encounter ethical dilemmas while addressing their social and commercial missions. The literature has implicitly acknowledged the ethical dilemmas social entrepreneurs face; however, the nature and implications of these ethical dilemmas and how social entrepreneurs navigate them are underexplored and undertheorized. We address this by conducting a 36-month field study of a social enterprise operating in a rural resource-constrained environment in India and dealing with a stigmatized product. We found four categories of ethical dilemmas faced by social entrepreneurs: challenges in engaging the community (equality vs. efficiency and fairness vs. care), challenges related to spillover effects (right vs. responsibilities), challenges in balancing diverse stakeholders (emotionally detached vs. emotionally engaged), and challenges related to cross-subsidization efforts (utilitarianism vs. fairness). Further, we identified three types of institutional work social entrepreneurs engage in to address ethical dilemmas: recognition work, responsibilization work, and reflective judgment work. We label these three institutional works as inclusion work - purposive actions of an entity to address ethical dilemmas by implementing its program in a way that supports the most marginalized. Our study makes an important contribution to the literature on ethics in the context of social entrepreneurship by identifying specific ethical dilemmas social entrepreneurs face in managing hybridity (balancing social-commercial objectives) and enhancing social impact (managing social-social objectives). Moreover, through the concept of inclusion work, our research not only integrates insights from ethics and institutional theories but also responds to the recent call to address grand societal challenges through institutional work.
... R3, R4, and R5 agreed that their mission is the start point to set strategies. Grimes, Williams, and Zhao (2020) noted that a mission statement reflects multiple values inside and outside the organization, and Varendh-Mansson, Wry, and Szafarz (2020) that the mission statement includes several approaches to balance and integrate different goals. That is similar to the answers provided by R2, R5, and R6. ...
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Some small business (SB) are exiting their markets because their managers used ineffective strategies to improve business performance. Providing SB managers with an integrative view to identify effective strategies could enhance overall business performance (OBP), minimizing the risk of closing permanently. Grounded in the general system theory, the purpose of this qualitative multiple case study was to explore strategies that SB managers who received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award between 2007 and 2018 in the United States used to achieve outstanding OBP. The participants were 6 high-level managers who participated in setting the strategies to improve OBP. Data were collected using semistructured interviews, the company’s 5-year performance analysis report, and member checking. Initial data were categorized in codes, and themes were identified, refined, and evaluated. Three major strategies SBs should use to secure outstanding OBP are: identify the reasons for a business to exist, identify the internal and external elements impacting the business performance, and understand the dynamic interaction among those elements for improvement. A recommendation for SB managers is to apply a systems approach, set plans, and identify effective strategies by considering the most impactful elements and their interaction for continuous improvement in line with the business mission realization. The implications for positive social change include the potential to help SB managers sustain their business to provide stable employment, develop local economies, and enhance families’ and communities’ lifestyle level.
... R3, R4, and R5 agreed that their mission is the start point to set strategies. Grimes, Williams, and Zhao (2020) noted that a mission statement reflects multiple values inside and outside the organization, and Varendh-Mansson, Wry, and Szafarz (2020) that the mission statement includes several approaches to balance and integrate different goals. That is similar to the answers provided by R2, R5, and R6. ...
... Specifically, we suggest that social venture missions can be understood as carrying a moral discourse characterized by moral foundations. Practically, this might mean employing language or sentiments indicative of the social venture's moral foundation(s) in its mission statement or in other narratives about its values and aspirations (Grimes et al., 2020). As such, we raise the following framing question: ...
Although organizational mission is central to social venturing, little is known about the nature and origins of social ventures' missions. In particular, the field lacks a framework for understanding the moral content of nascent ventures' “prosocial” missions that rely on quite different—and potentially conflicting—moral values. We engage in an exploratory study, drawing on moral foundations theory and upper echelons theory to develop framing questions related to the moral discourse in social venture missions and the role of founders' political ideology in relation to this moral discourse. We construct a novel dataset using computer-aided text analysis on the mission statements of over 50,000 nascent nonprofit ventures in the United States, supplemented by voter registration data from 17 states and Washington, D.C. Our findings reveal rich nuance in the moral discourse found in organizations' mission statements. Furthermore, founding teams' political ideologies are strongly associated with the moral discourse in their social ventures' stated missions—and in ways that differ intriguingly from findings in moral psychology at the individual level. We draw on these new insights to develop a roadmap for future research on organizational mission in relation to social venturing, moral markets, mission drift, and political ideology.
... Although such criticisms must not cast a shadow over some achievements and successful developments of microfinance, including in non-conducive macroeconomic contexts and not only when considering credit services (Patten et al., 2001), these have led to the emergence of the now formal, widely used concept of "mission drift", and to the debate on the existence of trade-offs between their financial and social aims (Cull et al., 2009b). Without diving too deep into this welldocumented and much debated concept (Grimes et al., 2020), mission drift is generally considered as arising when "MFIs become too focused on making profits at the expense of outreach to poorer customers" (Mersland and Strøm, 2010:28). In other words, it occurs when MFIs drift away from the poor customer segment (Woller, 2002), being typically costlier to serve than better-off clients (Gonzalez-Vega et al., 1996;Conning, 1999), and give the priority to financial considerations (Armendáriz and Szafarz, 2011). ...
Microfinance has substantially evolved since its early days. Still, a dual aim has always been at the heart of most microfinance institutions (MFIs): providing financial services to the poor and doing so via a financially sustainable model. 20 years ago, some mentioned a promise, or even a revolution. Yet, the sector has faced significant criticisms related to high interest rates, discrimination, aggressive commercial practices, crises, and over-indebtedness. Overall, the abundant impact studies carried out in microfinance did not reveal the expected positive impact. These failures emphasize a critical but still challenged stake for MFIs: combining financial and social aims and avoiding mission drift. With a view to support this double-bottom-line mission, this thesis adopts an industry-level approach and studies three forces affecting MFIs’ behaviors: regulation, competition, and collective action through professional associations. To do so, the thesis is structured around four chapters and offers an original combination of multiple fields and quantitative and qualitative research methods. Chapter 1 assesses the effects of a strengthening of microfinance regulation that occurred in 2012-2014 in Benin, using graphical analyses, hypothesis testing, and an event study. Chapter 2 investigates the effects of interest rate restrictions and possible interactions with market conditions in microfinance, using panel data estimations, a moderation analysis, and different measurements of competition. Chapter 3 details a qualitative study carried out in Cambodia to investigate how MFIs reacted to the imposition of an interest rate cap and suggests a theoretical framework helping regulators integrate market conditions into regulatory decisions. Finally, Chapter 4 suggests a qualitative study based on a fieldwork carried out in Tanzania to explore the root causes of free riding within professional microfinance associations. Overall, the thesis adopts a systemic approach where regulation, competition, and collective action are seen as interacting sector-level forces.
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Climate change mitigation is arguably the most significant challenge of the twenty-first century. On the foundations of research on social traps by economists and behavioral scientists, this research: (1) conceptualizes the climate change social trap as the behavior of entities (firms, individuals, or social groups) favoring short-term positive consequences over long-term negative consequences of climate change for society; (2) provides a brief overview of the impact of the fashion industry on climate change; (3) develops a summary overview of research on social traps and taxonomies of solutions for social traps; (4) discusses, in detail, a strategic marketing framework built on a taxonomy developed in macromarketing; and (5) using the framework, evaluates 130 leading companies in the fashion industry with reference to their strategic marketing efforts to draw insights for emerging out of the climate change social trap. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of this research for marketing theory and practice in helping firms emerge out of social traps in general, and the climate change social trap in particular.
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Integrated hybrid organizations, for instance social enterprises that pursue both social and economic goals through a single activity, are seen by many as promising vehicles to create social value while remaining economically sustainable. At the same time, they are said to run the risk of mission drift—losing sight of their social mission while navigating market and political pressures. While organizational governance mechanisms that ensure the overall direction, control and accountability of the organization are considered key to avoiding mission drift, scholars have argued that traditional governance mechanisms may not work in the context of social enterprises. Drawing on the legacy of old institutional theory, this article proposes a proactive approach to governance in social enterprises. We complement and go beyond control and compliance approaches and introduce a governance approach focused on purpose, commitment and coordinating around small wins. We propose that these three interlocking governance mechanisms allow social enterprises to mitigate the risk of mission drift in a proactive rather than reactive manner.
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The growing number of studies which reference the concept of mission drift imply that such drift is an undesirable strategic outcome related to inconsistent organizational action, yet beyond such references little is known about how mission drift occurs, how it impacts organizations, and how organizations should respond. Existing management theory more broadly offers initial albeit equivocal insight for understanding mission drift. On the one hand, prior studies have argued that inconsistent or divergent action can lead to weakened stakeholder commitment and reputational damage. On the other hand, scholars have suggested that because environments are complex and dynamic, such action is necessary for ensuring organizational adaptation and thus survival. In this study, we offer a theory of mission drift that unpacks its origin, clarifies its variety, and specifies how organizations might respond to external perceptions of mission drift. The resulting conceptual model addresses the aforementioned theoretical tension and offers novel insight into the relationship between organizational actions and identity.
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Studies have argued that hybrid organizations often face tradeoffs between the competing goals that they pursue. Yet we know little about the actual nature of such tradeoffs, nor how they might be shaped by different contextual factors. Focusing on social enterprise, we address these gaps by: (1) developing a framework that can be used to predict the compatibility of social outreach and financial sustainability for different types of social enterprises, and; (2) arguing that this relationship is moderated by the cultural roots of the issue that an enterprise addresses, the market conditions where it operates, and the quality of its management. We test our arguments in a study of 2037 microfinance organizations in 115 nations between 1995 and 2013. Results support our predictions and show that social-financial tradeoffs are accentuated when a social issue is related to deep-seated cultural problems like discrimination, and when an enterprise operates in a weak business environment. Intensive social outreach is sustainable, however, when cultural barriers to outreach are low and an enterprise operates in a supportive market context and is professionally managed. Our study thus suggests that social-financial tradeoffs are contingent, and that the promise of pursuing a social mission through commercial means varies widely across contexts.
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Recent research suggests that many microfinance institutions increasingly focus on financial performance at the expense of the social component of their dual objectives. Existing studies typically assume that capital providers and managers mainly drive this so-called mission drift. In this study, we investigate whether ‘personal mission drift’ at the credit officer level can further explain the reduced emphasis on poorer clients among microfinance institutions. We present both qualitative and quantitative evidence that more experienced credit officers tend to serve fewer vulnerable clients. Specifically, we show that all else being equal, credit officer experience is negatively correlated with the provision of small loans, loans to young clients, and loans to clients with disabilities. Our qualitative analysis suggests that perceived client risk and preferences for increased time efficiency mainly drive more experienced credit officers’ relative neglect of more vulnerable clients. This drift appears to be reinforced by the industry’s incentive schemes. Therefore, credit officer incentives and training should be designed to prevent this mission drift, which is observed at the microfinance institution level but is actually initiated at the credit officer level.
Research Summary: Using arguments derived from transactions cost economics and incomplete contract theory, this article shows that the assumption that shareholders are a firm's only residual claimants is logically inconsistent with resource‐based theory's model of profit generation. It follows from this conclusion that resource‐based theory's model of profit appropriation must incorporate a stakeholder perspective. Some theoretical and empirical implications of this conclusion for resource‐based theory's model of profit generation, profit appropriation, the role of managers and entrepreneurs in resource‐based theory, and how conflicting interests among stakeholders can be resolved are all discussed. Finally, some continuing differences between stakeholder theory and incorporating a stakeholder perspective into resource‐based theory's model of profit appropriation are also discussed. Managerial Summary: Some argue that since shareholders are the only stakeholder who have a claim on a firm's profits, managers should focus only on maximizing shareholder wealth. Not only will this satisfy shareholders, it will also satisfy a firm's other stakeholders, since—in principle—these other stakeholders get paid before shareholders. This article shows that this logic is deeply flawed. In particular, it shows that if the only stakeholder who has a claim on a firm's economic profits is shareholders, then—in most competitive settings—a firm will not be able to attract the kinds of resources it needs to generate these profits. To attract the kinds of resources that can generate profits, managers must recognize that stakeholders, besides shareholders, have claims on the profits that their resources help generate. This, in turn, suggests that managers seeking to generate economic profits must adopt a stakeholder perspective in how they manage their firm. This article explores the managerial implications of this conclusion.
Organizations increasingly grapple with hybridity—the combination of identities, forms, logics, or other core elements that would conventionally not go together. Drawing on in-depth longitudinal data from the first ten years of a successful social enterprise—Digital Divide Data, founded in Cambodia—we induce an empirically grounded model of sustaining hybridity over time through structured flexibility: the interaction of stable organizational features and adaptive enactment processes. We identify two stable features—paradoxical frames, involving leaders’ cognitive understandings of the two sides of a hybrid as both contradictory and interdependent, and guardrails, consisting of formal structures, leadership expertise, and stakeholder relationships associated with each side—that together facilitate ongoing adaptation in the meanings and practices of dual elements, sustaining both elements over time. Our structured flexibility model reorients research away from focusing on either stable or adaptive approaches to sustaining hybridity toward understanding their interaction, with implications for scholarship on hybridity, duality, and adaptation more broadly.
This paper demonstrates how change recipient sensemaking contributes to the unpredictable and emergent nature of strategic change. It reports on a longitudinal, real-time case study of planned change implementation within the core business division of an organisation undergoing transition. The study focuses on the processes of interaction that occur between change recipients as they try to make sense of the various change interventions put in place. It shows how the interpretations recipients develop of the change initiatives as a result of this interaction leads to both intended and unintended change outcomes as implementation progresses. As such, the research provides an explanation for a phenomenon well documented by other research -- the tendency for intended strategies to lead to unintended consequences. However, the research is also able to provide evidence of, and detail on, the processes of interaction identified by other research as important in the creation of new shared understandings at times of change, but which are as yet under explored. The findings have implications for future research and challenge the way we conceive of change management.