Large firms are often complex institutions with several departments (sales, production, design, purchasing, personnel, finance, etc.). Each department is likely to have its own specific set of aims and objectives, which may come into conflict with those of other departments. These aims in turn will be constrained by the interests of shareholders, workers, customers and creditors (collectively known as stakeholders), who will need to be kept sufficiently happy. In many firms, targets will be set for production, sales, profit, stockholding, etc. If, in practice, target levels are not achieved, a ‘search’ procedure will be started to find what went wrong and how to rectify it.
If the problem cannot be rectified, managers will probably adjust the target downwards. If, on the other hand, targets are easily achieved, managers may adjust them upwards. Thus the targets to which managers aspire depend to a large extent on the success in achieving previous targets. Targets are also influenced by expectations of demand and costs, by the achievements of competitors and by expectations of competitors’ future behavior. For example, if it is expected that the economy is likely to move into recession, sales and profit targets may be adjusted downwards.
If targets conflict, the conflict will be settled by a bargaining process between managers. The outcome of the bargaining, however, will depend on the power and ability of the individual managers concerned. Thus a similar set of conflicting targets may be resolved differently in different firms.
Since changing targets often involves search procedures and bargaining processes and is therefore time consuming, and since many managers prefer to avoid conflict, targets tend to be changed fairly infrequently. Business conditions, however, often change rapidly. To avoid the need to change targets, therefore, managers will tend to be fairly conservative in their aspirations. This leads to the phenomenon...
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