Striving toward the future: Aspiration-performance discrepancies and planned organizational change

Giuseppe Labianca, James F. Fairbank, Goce Andrevski, Michael Parzen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Interest has been growing in understanding how organizations' aspiration levels affect their planning for future organizational change. Previous research has not specified whether organizations use direct competitors or other comparable organizations as referents for forming their aspirations. In this study, it is argued that organizations form their social aspirations based on two types of interorganizational comparisons: competitive and striving. In competitive comparisons, an organization compares its current performance against that of its current direct competitors. When relative performance is poor, these organizations plan more extensive and more radical change. However, the study shows that organizations that are performing well relative to competitors do not necessarily become inertial, as theory suggests. Rather, organizations engage in striving comparisons by comparing their current performance against the performance of organizations to which they strive to be like in the future. The analyses show that organizations with large striving discrepancies are driven to more extensive and more radical change, even if they are performing well compared to current competitors. The study examined this interplay between competitive and striving discrepancy in explaining organizational change on a sample of 131 AACSB accredited business schools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-466
Number of pages34
JournalStrategic Organization
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Aspiration
  • Cognitive strategic groups
  • Emulation
  • Interorganizational monitoring and social comparison
  • Organizational learning
  • Performance feedback

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Education
  • Industrial relations
  • Strategy and Management


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