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Beyond hybridity: accounting for the values complexity of all organizations in the study of mission and mission drift

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Grimes, MG 
Williams, TA 
Zhao, EY 


[first paragraph] Mission drift—the perceived discontinuity between an organization’s actions and its identity—continues to garner attention primarily from scholars interested in understanding why “hybrid organizations” focused on creating social and environmental value shift away from such value creation (Ebrahim, Battilana, & Mair, 2015; Wolf & Mair, 2019; Wry & Zhao, 2018). Our recent study of mission drift (Grimes, Williams, & Zhao, 2019) broadens this discussion by theoretically grounding mission drift in longstanding research on organizational identity and adaptation; unpacking different types of mission drift; and theorizing about why such drift occurs and how organizations might respond. In Varendh-Mansson, Wry, and Szafarz’s (2019; hereafter VWS) response to our article, the authors’ primary critique suggests that our theorizing is “built on shaky foundations” based on the premise that mission should not be “conceptualized in simplistic terms as an organization’s single orienting purpose” (p: XX). In making this argument, the authors reference the literature on hybrid organizing and the distinction this literature often draws between organizations with a single purpose (e.g., economic) versus those with two or more purposes (e.g., economic, social, environmental). Although our desire is not to repeat ourselves, we are grateful for the opportunity in this dialogue to clarify how our prior article not only addresses VWS’s primary critique but also moves beyond the authors’ assumptions regarding the multiplex nature of organizations’ missions. After responding to this definitional issue, we then focus the remainder of this dialogue toward advancing scholarship on mission drift by drawing on two additional important questions raised in VWS’s arguments.



35 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services, 3507 Strategy, Management and Organisational Behaviour

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Academy of Management Review

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Academy of Management


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