Determinism and voluntarism: An integrated model of strategic management applied to small business organizations

Date of Completion

January 1991


Business Administration, Management




An understanding of why some organizations grow and succeed while others fail is a basic goal of students of business policy and strategy. Researchers have proposed various explanations of organizational performance, but they disagree on several basic issues. One line of inquiry, population ecology, considers performance to be environmentally determined. Studies in strategic management advocate an opposite view that assumes managerial control over organizational performance. A model that recognizes the simultaneous effects of environmentally determined conditions and of managerial choice will help to resolve an area of controversy in the research.^ The basic assumptions of the two models conflict. They commonly use different units of analysis, different measures, and different tests. Not surprisingly, they reach different conclusions. Each model offers insight into organizational activities, but may fail to recognize the contribution of the other. It is conceivable that either model, taken alone, may be inadequate. To demonstrate that possibility, this paper tests a sample of firms whose performance might be explained differently by the separate theories.^ The paper integrates the theories of both population ecology and strategic management to present an integrated model. It represents the first study to assess simultaneously models drawn from both population ecology and from strategic management. The integrated model shows that both sets of theories contribute to understanding the phenomena that occur in a mature industry. ^