The board of directors serves multiple corporate governance functions, including monitoring management, providing oversight on strategic issues, and linking the organization to the broader external environment. Researchers have become increasingly interested in board interlocks and how content transmitted via these linkages shapes firm outcomes, such as corporate structure and strategies. As influential mechanisms to manage environmental uncertainty and facilitate information exchange, Board interlocks are created by directors who are affiliated with more than one firm via employment or board service and allow the board to capture a diversity of strategic experiences. One critical corporate decision that may be influenced by interlocks and strategic diffusion is diversification (i.e., in which products and markets to compete). Directors draw on their own experiences with diversification strategies at other firms to help guide and manage ongoing strategic decision-making. There is broad scholarship on interlocks and the individuals who create them, with extant research reporting that some firms are more likely to imitate or learn from their interlock partners than others. Prior findings suggest that the conditions under which information is transmitted via interlock, such as an individual director’s experience with diversification strategies at other firms, may make that information more influential to the focal firm’s own strategic decision-making related to diversification. A more holistic framework captures factors related to the individual interlocking director, the board and firm overall and the context surrounding these linkages and relationships, helping to promote future research. Understanding the social context surrounding board interlocks offers opportunities to more deeply examine how these interconnections serve in pursuit of the board’s fundamental purpose of protecting shareholder investment from managerial self-interest. Overall, integrating multi-level factors will offer new insights into the influence of board interlocks on firm strategies on both sides of the partnership. Expanding knowledge of how inter-firm linkages transmit knowledge influential to board decision-making can also improve our understanding of board effectiveness and corporate governance.
Rodrigo B. DeMello
Firms deploy value-based strategies to achieve competitive advantage in the marketplace. However, processes of value creation and appropriation do not happen in a vacuum but are structured by a set of formal market institutions that define, among other things, policies and regulations on standards, privacy, safety, trade, and access to resources. Corporate political strategies are the ways firms use to shape these policies and regulations in favorable ways that help them achieve competitive advantage. The political activities include lobbying, participation in hearings, campaign contributions, the use of revolving-door personnel, advocacy, grass-roots mobilization, and nurturing and exploiting political ties. Firms interact with government officeholders in different government arenas, such as national and local legislatures, government agencies, and the judiciary branch.
For most corporations, being able to deploy effective political strategies is, therefore, necessary for achieving sustainable competitive advantage. The research into corporate political strategies has tried to explain why firms engage in political strategy, when, and which political activity would yield the best results. The usual theoretical framings draw from Resource Dependence Theory, Institutional Theory, Resource-Based View, Agency Theory, and Stakeholder Theory. While the strategic logic underlying each theoretical approach varies, they are better seen as complementary to each other. The fact that the phenomenon of political strategies is complex, dynamic, and an important part of daily business of several corporations favors the integration of different theoretical approaches.
Although the literature on corporate political strategies has considerably advanced, there are still areas that could benefit from future research: the integration of market and political strategies, especially the use of market actions as political influence; the integration of social and political strategies; the role that individual and managerial aspects play in choice of political strategies; and multicountry comparative studies, especially focusing on ideological turnarounds and state capitalism.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a legitimate responsibility to society, based on the principle that corporations should share some of the benefit that accrues from the control of vast resources. CSR goes beyond the legal, ethical, and financial obligations that create profits.
In the research literature, corporate social responsibility is defined in a variety of ways, depending on the aspect of CSR being examined. An inclusive definition is that social responsibility requires the firm to take into account the interests of all stakeholders, where stakeholders are defined as everyone who affects or is affected by the firm’s decisions and actions. A firm-focused definition holds that social responsibility includes actions that further a social goal, beyond what is required by ethics, law, and profitability. A political economy–oriented definition posits that firms have a responsibility to correct market failures such as negative externalities and government failures such as limits to jurisdiction that result in worker rights violations.
When implemented, altruistic CSR implies that firms provide a social good unrelated to the firms’ business that does not benefit the bottom line. Strategic CSR implies that firms are simultaneously profitable and socially responsible. To achieve this, CSR must be a core value of the firm and must be integrated into processes and products. When employed strategically, CSR can be an element of a differentiation strategy, leading to premium prices, enhanced brand and firm reputation, and supportive community relations. Corporate environmental responsibility often takes the form of overcompliance with regulation, improving the environment more than is required. A primary benefit of this is to stave off further regulation.
To capture the benefits of being socially responsible, the firm must make stakeholders aware of its record. This has led to triple bottom line reporting—that is, reporting about firm performance in terms of profits, people, and the planet. Social enterprises go a step further and make social responsibility the primary goal of the organization.
At a macro level, innovation for society refers to innovation of societal institutions. At a micro level, it refers to innovations undertaken by social entrepreneurs as start-ups with a social and/or environmental mission and innovations undertaken by firms in products/services, processes, operations, technologies, and business models to address social and environmental challenges while achieving core economic objectives. The focus here is on firm-level innovations and the drivers for such innovations.
Exogenous drivers include institutional-level influences such as regulations, societal norms, and industry best practices (mimetic forces) and stakeholder-level influences including shareholders, investors, customers, regulators, nongovernmental organizations, media, and others that have power, legitimacy, and urgency of their claims directly or indirectly via other stakeholders. The endogenous drivers include institutional ownership, activist shareholders, boards of directors, ownership, and competitive strategy focused on developing profitable businesses that address societal challenges.
Even when the firm is motivated due to exogenous and endogenous drivers to undertake investments in innovating for society, it needs the capacity to generate and implement such innovations. Innovations for society require motivated managers, managerial capacity, and organizational capabilities that go beyond routine innovations that firms undertake to improve products and processes and enter new markets. This capacity enables firms to reconcile their performance on economic, social, and environmental metrics to address societal challenges while achieving core economic objectives.
Managerial capacity requires firms to overcome cognitive biases and create opportunity frames that convert negative loss bias, where managers perceive lack of control over outcomes, to a positive opportunity bias, where managers perceive the ability to control their decisions and actions. Opportunity framing involves legitimization of innovation for society in the corporate identity, integration of sustainability metrics into performance evaluation, creation of discretionary slack, and empowerment of managers with a relevant and ongoing information flow.
Innovating for society also requires major changes in a firm’s decision-making processes and investments in new organizational capabilities of engaging stakeholders and integration of external learning, processes of continuous improvement of operations, higher order or double-loop organizational learning by integrating external learning with internal knowledge, cross-functional integration, technology portfolios, and strategic proactivity, all leading to processes of continuous innovation.
Knowledge about the role of firms in addressing societal challenges has grown over the past three decades as scholars in multiple disciplines have explained the motivations of firms to undertake innovations for society, processes to build organizational capabilities to adopt and implement sustainability strategies, and linkages of such strategies to financial performance. Nevertheless, such innovations and strategies are far from a universal norm.
Jacqueline A. Gilbert
Organizational diversity is regarded positively, but haphazardly embraced. The absence of a cultural mandate at work (one which includes an emphasis on managing differences) can result in minority assimilation, and in either unintended bullying or in intentional abuse. Declining stock price, loss of goodwill, inability to recruit qualified candidates, and internal havoc marked by perpetuation of firm dysfunction may occur. These outcomes are especially alarming in the face of transformative population growth, in which minorities are predicted to become the demographic majority within the United States.
Inattention to employee misconduct prevents firms from experiencing enhanced productivity. Encouraging civil behavior is thus essential to engendering camaraderie in a diverse workforce, in which incivilities, or micro-inequities, are disproportionately targeted at minority groups. Management modeling of appropriate behavior (and swift action toward perpetrators for non-compliance) are necessary to achieve human capital integration.
John Bryson and Lauren Hamilton Edwards
Strategic planning has become a fairly routine and common practice at all levels of government in the United States and elsewhere. It can be part of the broader practice of strategic management that links planning with implementation. Strategic planning can be applied to organizations, collaborations, functions (e.g., transportation or health), and to places ranging from local to national to transnational. Research results are somewhat mixed, but they generally show a positive relationship between strategic planning and improved organizational performance. Much has been learned about public-sector strategic planning over the past several decades but there is much that is not known.
There are a variety of approaches to strategic planning. Some are comprehensive process-oriented approaches (i.e., public-sector variants of the Harvard Policy Model, logical incrementalism, stakeholder management, and strategic management systems). Others are more narrowly focused process approaches that are in effect strategies (i.e., strategic negotiations, strategic issues management, and strategic planning as a framework for innovation). Finally, there are content-oriented approaches (i.e., portfolio analyses and competitive forces analysis).
The research on public-sector strategic planning has pursued a number of themes. The first concerns what strategic planning “is” theoretically and practically. The approaches mentioned above may be thought of as generic—their ostensive aspect—but they must be applied contingently and sensitively in practice—their performative aspect. Scholars vary in whether they conceptualize strategic planning in a generic or performative way. A second theme concerns attempts to understand whether and how strategic planning “works.” Not surprisingly, how strategic planning is conceptualized and operationalized affects the answers. A third theme focuses on outcomes of strategic planning. The outcomes studied typically have been performance-related, such as efficiency and effectiveness, but some studies focus on intermediate outcomes, such as participation and learning, and a small number focus on a broader range of public values, such as transparency or equity. A final theme looks at what contributes to strategic planning success. Factors related to success include effective leadership, organizational capacity and resources, and participation, among others.
A substantial research agenda remains. Public-sector strategic planning is not a single thing, but many things, and can be conceptualized in a variety of ways. Useful findings have come from each of these different conceptualizations through use of a variety of methodologies. This more open approach to research should continue. Given the increasing ubiquity of strategic planning across the globe, the additional insights this research approach can yield into exactly what works best, in which situations, and why, is likely to be helpful for advancing public purposes.