This field study investigates an empirical setting where the introduction of new formal results controls—stretch targets for productivity that are seemingly unachievable with current process efficiencies—is associated with high productivity gains over extended periods of time. Contrary to findings from the prior management accounting research, employees meet the targets by being creative and risk-taking in continuously innovating processes, despite the pressure induced by high target-level difficulty. Mobilizing self-determination theory, we argue that a specific interrelation of personnel and cultural control with results control supports internalization of the latter by employees. In this situation, employees perceive the high performance required by the results control assimilated into their own values, which facilitates the autonomous motivation necessary for their creativity. Our findings contribute to the literature by identifying the conditions, and discovering the mechanisms, that enhance the efficacy of stretch targets.

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