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When problems knock at the organization's door - a theory of motivation to change, problemistic search and choice of action: organization theory under a behavioral lens

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2016
Number of pages304
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • Research and Development Management (RADMA)
Award date6/12/2016
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In this dissertation, I focus on how decision makers respond to multiple performance-aspiration discrepancies by first using their firm’s position relative to aspiration levels to make sense of observed performance, and then making decisions based on their own interpretations of available information. In particular, the theoretical and empirical contributions of this thesis relate to the causes, underlying dynamics, and consequences of organizational change and the research methods involved in their study. Specifically, I take an approach that combines multiple theoretical perspectives – including the behavioral theory of the firm, threat-rigidity theory, institutional theory, and organizational learning theory – and multiple methodologies – such as computer simulation and statistical analysis (dynamic panel data analysis and multilevel modeling) – to stake out what I feel are new and dynamic avenues for exploring how decision makers interpret and act upon information concerning the performance of their organizations and the external environment. Such an exploration has occurred in two synergistic streams of research: the first stream investigates how and to what extent performance relative to aspiration levels affects organizational search (Paper 1) and strategic change (Paper 2, Paper 3). In so doing, it develops theory of managerial attention to goals, sense making, and decision making. The second, investigates how and to what extent in family firms the pursuit of a variety of non-economic goals shapes family owners’ and managers’ cognitive frameworks and their interpretation of the environment, entailing systematic differences between family and nonfamily firms in decision making (Paper 4).