Willing and Able: A General Model of Organizational Responses to Normative Pressures


Academy of Management Review


Departments: Strategy & Business Policy, GREGHEC (CNRS)

Keywords: institutional theory, normative pressures, symbolic, substantive, conformity, compliance, issue salience

We develop a conceptual understanding of when and how organizations respond to normative pressures. More precisely, we examine two main factors underlying the willingness and ability of organizations to respond to an issue: (1) issue salience, and (2) the cost-benefit analysis of resource mobilization. We suggest that decision-makers’ interpretation of issue salience in conjunction with their perception of the costs and benefits of taking action to address the issue generates five potential responses: symbolic compliance and symbolic conformity, substantive compliance and substantive conformity, and inaction. We extend the baseline model by examining a number of boundary conditions. By focusing on the willingness and ability of organizations to respond to normative pressures, and by adopting the issue as the unit of analysis, our model helps explain intra- as well as inter-organizational response heterogeneity to institutional complexity. We contribute to the institutional research tradition and offer useful implications for managerial practice, from strategic management to policy making