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Article

Strategic agility and international joint ventures: The willingness-ability paradox of family firms

Journal of International Management. 2021. Vol. 27. No. 1. P. 1-13.
Debellis F., De Massis A., Messeni Petruzzelli A., Frattini F., Del Giudice M.

Despite the considerable increase in studies on international joint ventures (IJVs) and family business, the two research streams have yet to be systemically integrated. Family firms have unique characteristics that affect their involvement in IJVs differently from their non-family counterparts. Indeed, family firms face a paradox entailing a lower willingness to form IJVs, but a higher ability to govern them. Drawing on three distinct components of strategic agility (i.e., strategic sensitivity, leadership unity, and resource fluidity), we develop a theoretical framework that unravels this paradox. Specifically, we argue that strong emotional attachment reduces family firms' strategic sensitivity, creating a motivational gap with respect to forming IJVs. On the other hand, when family firms overcome this gap by making full use of their board of directors, they have higher levels of leadership unity and resource fluidity. These dimensions lead to a greater ability to govern the complexities of the relationship, hence reducing opportunistic hazards, and significantly increasing the odds of the long-term success of IJVs. We develop propositions for empirical studies, and offer implications and directions for future research.