Symbolic Management: Governance, Strategy, and Institutions

ISBN : 9780198792055

James Westphal; Sun Hyun Park
240 Pages
153 x 153 mm
Pub date
Jan 2020
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The theory of symbolic management reveals a pervasive pattern of 'symbolic decoupling' - a separation between appearances and reality - at every level of the governance system. At each level the processes of governance are less efficient or effective than they appear; from interpersonal relations within organizations such as those between CEOs and directors, top managers and lower-level employees, to relations between firm leaders and external stakeholders such as journalists and security analysts. There is even a separation between appearances and reality at the level of the governance system itself. In this book, James Westphal and Sun Hyun Park develop symbolic management into a major theoretical perspective on governance. Not only does symbolic management provide a compelling behavioral alternative to economic perspectives such as agency theory, but it subsumes economic theory. Agency theory is reconceived as a historically contingent institutional logic that became taken for granted among corporate stakeholders for a period of time and eventually replaced by a new logic of governance. Through a body of extensive empirical research Westphal and Park demonstrate how the symbolic management activities of firm leaders have contributed to this historical shift in prevailing logics of governance, and present a warning to regulators, investors, and the general public.


1 Introduction to the Symbolic Management Perspective
Section I: The Major Forms of Symbolic Management
2 Symbolic Management of Policy and Structure
3 Symbolic Management of Process
4 Symbolic Management Beyond the Firm Level
Section II: The Social and Psychological Determinants of Symbolic Management
5 The Multi-stage Social Influence Process in CEO-Board Relationships
6 Social Network Ties and Symbolic Management
7 Social Influence Processes In Leader-Stakeholder Relations
8 Group-level Social and Psychological Processes that Support Symbolic Management
9 The Social Psychological Dynamics of Symbolic Management
10 Conclusions, Future Research Directions, and Policy Implications

About the author: 

James Westphal is the Harvey C. Fruehauf Professor of Business Administration at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. He conducts research in the areas of strategic management and organizational theory, with a focus on social and psychological processes in corporate governance and strategic decision making. He was elected to the Macro-Organizational Behavior Society in 2004, the Fellows of the Academy of Management in 2011, and the Fellows of the Strategic Management Society in 2019. He previously served as Division Chair of the Strategic Management Division of the Academy of Management. He was listed as the 3rd most productive management scholar in the world over the period 2005-2015, and his research has been referenced in Business Week, The Economist, Financial Times, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, among others. ; Sun Hyun Park is Associate Professor of Strategy and International Management at College of Business, Seoul National University. Prior to joining SNU, he served as Assistant Professor of Management and Organization at Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California. His research focuses on how corporate managers cope with a firm's external environment, which includes technological, institutional, and competitive dynamics. He served as a global representative for the Organization and Management Theory division of the Academy of Management (2017-2019), and he currently serves on the editorial review board for Strategic Management Journal and Strategic Organization (2019-2021).

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