Research summary: Prior literature drawing on the behavioral theory of the firm has not considered how resource constraints impact the direction of organizational change in response to performance shortfalls relative to aspirations. We argue that decreasing financial resources resulting from substantial performance shortfalls and the absence or availability of slack resources together affect the emphasis on different types of organizational change in response to performance shortfalls. Using data on the acquisition and divestment behavior of 530 companies in the information and communications technology sector from 1992 to 2014, we find that the frequency of resource-consuming acquisitions and of resource-freeing divestments are affected differently by performance below aspirations and that these relationships are moderated by the level of financial slack. Managerial summary: This paper examines whether firms respond to performance shortfalls with acquisitions or divestments. We argue and show that the closer the firm is to the aspired level of performance, the more likely it is to respond with resource-consuming acquisitions to close the performance gap, whereas the further it is from aspired performance, the more likely the firm is to respond with divestments to free resources. Financial slack weakens these relationships between performance relative to aspirations and acquisitions or divestments such that it increases the likelihood of a response through acquisitions while it reduces the likelihood of a response through divestments.
- Performance feedback