Managing Joint Production Motivation

Much research in strategic management, organization and strategic human resource management assert that human resources are the ultimate foundation of sustained value creation and competitive advantages. In this context, much research has explored the question of how to best realize collaborative activities.

“However,” says SMG Professor Nicolai Foss, “generally the various research streams address either the motivational or the cognitive aspects of collaborative activities (e.g., in teams), and fail to consider the interplay of cognitive and motivational processes.” This is highly problematic, Foss explains, because many converging insights (e.g., in experimental social psychology, experimental and behavioral economics, and evolutionary anthropology) suggest that these processes are highly intertwined. “This is exactly the point of much of Siegwart Lindenberg’s recent research,” Foss adds, “and we thought it would interesting to apply this research in the context of firm organization.”siegwart lindenberg

The July issue of The Academy of Management Review published the article Managing Joint Production Motivation: The Role of Goal Framing and Governance Mechanisms, by professor Siegwart Lindenberg and professor Nicolai Foss. The article explores the motivational and cognitive microfoundations of organizational performance. The point of departure is the fundamentally collaborative nature of work in organizations and the fact that humans are biologically predisposed, under the right circumstances, to cooperate.

The fundamental question of the article is how to tap into the special kind of motivation where the collaboration of organizational members gives the organization a performance advantage. The authors focus on what they call the “normative goal frame” which entails the adoption of joint goals and the means to reach such goals as the crucial precondition of “joint production motivation.” However, the normative goal frame is in constant danger of being displaced by different kinds of more narrow, short-term and individual goals. Since we are always dealing with multiple goals, it is important which are in the cognitive foreground and which in the background. This insight enables the article to discuss a range of governance instruments necessary to establish and maintain the kind motivation that underlies superior performance.

Nicolai FossFrom a more managerial perspective, the implications of the article concern how the manager stabilizes the normative goal frame of the organization. “We develop a number of implications of potentially high managerial relevance,” says Foss. “However, it is also clear that although the theory is strongly inspired by much solid empirical work, it has not been directly tested. In future work, we want to do empirical work that directly tests our ideas about joint production motivation.”


Lindenberg, Siegwart & Foss, Nicolai J. (2011) Managing Joint Production Motivation: The Role of Goal Framing and Governance Mechanisms. Academy of Management Review. Vol. 36, No.3, 500-525