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Corporate Structure and Performance Feedback: Aspirations and Adaptation in M-Form Firms

  • Author(s): Gaba, Vibha;
  • Joseph, John
  • et al.

In this study, we examine how business units of multidivisional (M-form) firms adapt their activities in response to poor performance at the corporate and business unit levels. By linking performance feedback theory with theories of attention and M-form organizations, we show that corporate structure influences the relationship between performance below aspirations and business unit adaptation. Because corporate structure vertically differentiates performance goals and problemistic search, solutions to performance problems vary across corporate and business unit levels, with divergent implications for business unit adaptation. We examine business unit adaptation empirically through new product introductions in the global mobile device industry, finding that poor performance at the business unit level leads to greater new product introductions. In contrast, corporate-level responses to performance problems have a negative cross-level effect on new product introductions. We also find that these negative effects are attenuated for strategically significant business units, which have more input into corporate responses. By linking structural and behavioral drivers of action, this paper contributes to the knowledge and understanding of adaptive behavior in multidivisional firms.

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