A Process Perspective on Organizational Failure: A Qualitative Meta-Analysis

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An important stream of the organizational failure literature has proposed process models to describe how firms fail. Despite much progress, this stream is currently at a crossroads. Previous process models try to capture how failure unfolds in singular models that describe organizational failure as the result of either inertia or extremism or as a mixture of both. However, it remains unclear how these competing explanations are related and what underlying mechanisms explain why organizational failure processes unfold as they do. We address these issues by examining failure processes using a qualitative meta-analysis research design. The qualitative meta-analysis allows us to analyse and synthesize the wealth of previously published single-case studies in order to develop process models of organizational failure. The most salient finding of our analysis is that failure processes converge around four distinct process archetypes, which we name imperialist, laggard, villain, and politicized. Each process archetype can be explained by the interplay of distinct rigidity and conflict mechanisms. Differentiating the four process archetypes and explaining the underlying mechanisms helps to resolve some contradictions in the previous failure process literature.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Management Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)19-56
Number of pages38
Publication statusPublished - 01.2019

Bibliographical note

All authors contributed equally, and they are listed in alphabetical order.

    Research areas

  • Management studies
  • mechanisms, Organizational failure, process perspective, qualitative meta-analysis