Organizational Decoupling: A Systematic Literature Review and Directions for Future Research

Rachid Jabbouri, Yann Truong, Dirk Schneckenberg, Mark Palmer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

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Institutional scholars have thoroughly studied the phenomenon of policy-practice decoupling, leading to valuable insights about isomorphic structures and different kinds of organizational responses to institutional pressures. More recently, another form of decoupling, relevant to the discrepancies between organizational means and ends, has gained attention as a research subject. Given the increased rationalization and fragmentation of the institutional environment in which contemporary organizations are rooted, adopters felt compelled to devote more efforts into implementing their symbolically adopted policies. However, despite deploying significant resources and following a clear set of inducements, many organizations nowadays fail to achieve the envisaged goals for adopted institutions. As such the phenomenon of means-ends decoupling provides an alternative explanation to this frequent imperfect goal achievement among adopters, thereby complementing the seminal contributions of the extant policy-practice decoupling research in unraveling the larger phenomenon of institutional decoupling. This paper aims at reviewing the existing literature to understand the current state of the field, its current shortcomings, and potential avenues for future research. In so doing, we advance the conceptual idea that a set of lower-level mechanisms lead through their interplay and in their combination to the manifestation of the higher-level phenomenon of means-ends decoupling. We apply these conceptual insights to one practically relevant institutional field, publicly funded cooperative R&D projects, which we argue it fits the definition of opaque fields as described by early institutional work. Finally, we discuss the contributions of these conceptual insights to the extant decoupling research and to resolving some of the prevalent governance issues for contemporary organizations.KeywordsMeans-ends decoupling, substantive compliance, goal achievement, opaque fields, publicly funded, cooperative R&D projects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEURAM Conference
Subtitle of host publicationEURAM 19 Lisbon Portugal 26/06/2019-28/06/2019
ISBN (Electronic) 978-2-9602195-1-7
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Publication series

NameEURAM Proceedings
ISSN (Electronic)2466-7498


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