The influence of plural organizational forms on beliefs and outcomes related to new product adoption

William J. Ritchie (Department of Management, College of Business, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA)
George Young (School of Business, Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, USA)
Ali M. Shahzad (Department of Management, College of Business, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA)
Robert W. Kolodinsky (Department of Management, College of Business, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA)
Steven A. Melnyk (Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management, Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Publication date: 17 August 2015



The purpose of this paper is to explore product adoption beliefs and actions of a large retail food organization with both corporate-owned stores and privately held franchise stores.


The authors used a case study approach involving survey data collection from 190 corporate-owned and licensed retail outlets that were members of a large, single organization. Ordinary least squares regression and mean differences (t-tests) were used to test the data. Findings were elaborated upon based upon structured interviews.


Corporate-owned retail outlets invested heavily in food safety innovation, while franchised retail outlets pursued minimal investment to retain product flexibility. The level of adoption is contingent upon ownership structure, as well as institutional forces emanating from the corporate environment, the customer, and peer organizations.

Research limitations/implications

The findings offer greater insight into methodological issues associated with measurement of new product adoption in particular. The authors have shown that it is critical for researchers to clarify the level of analysis of the study. Quantitative survey analysis revealed both safety and economic motivations to be desirable issues in product adoption considerations. However, when quantitative and qualitative results were combined, very different outcomes were realized as ownership structure differences appear to dominate product adoption decisions. Therefore, when conducting plural organizational form research, the data gathering efforts must be carefully undertaken to ensure that critical drivers of phenomena explored are not overlooked.

Practical implications

Adoption of new product adoption involves the complex interplay between ownership structure/control, economic cost/benefit, managerial choice, and societal norms. Often, organizational research relating to adoption of new processes and innovations collects individual-level data. However, this study shows that adoption decisions occur at multiple levels and that the ownership/structural context must be considered.

Social implications

The study has implications from social innovation/responsibility perspectives. Recent press regarding food safety has put pressure on food processing establishments to consider methods of reducing food safety breaches. No doubt, this has alerted the consumer to potential risks in food processing and influenced their preferences in favor of food safety innovations. Nonetheless, perceptions of the importance of “safety” can be interpreted in a variety of ways, leading to differing courses of action. Interviews with corporate-level executives revealed that they preferred both corporate-owned and franchised retail outlets adopt case ready (CR) meats to stem safety concerns. Yet, this aspiration diffused throughout the organization differently.


Multiple organizational structure forms operating within the same organizational entity, or “plural form” organizations, offer unique opportunities for examination. Applying various theoretical lenses, including agency theory, the resource-based theory, and institutional theory, the authors offer rationale for why different structural types within the same corporate entity may differ in their beliefs and actions concerning product safety, cost, and adoption.



Ritchie, W.J., Young, G., Shahzad, A.M., Kolodinsky, R.W. and Melnyk, S.A. (2015), "The influence of plural organizational forms on beliefs and outcomes related to new product adoption", Management Decision, Vol. 53 No. 7, pp. 1619-1641.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below

You may be able to access this content by logging in via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.
If you think you should have access to this content, click the button to contact our support team.