Thesis Defence
Purpose Implementation by For-profit Firms: A Process View

Piotr Horodyski

Ivy Buche, PhD candidate in the Global Executive Ph.D., will publicly defend her thesis in Management Sciences.

20 December 2023
9.30 a.m. (CET - GMT+1)
ESCP Business School Paris Campus / Montparnasse
Room B1502

Attend the defence
(on campus or online)


Purpose has arguably been one of the most influential concepts in business over the last decade. While the concept of a higher-order purpose that addresses problems of society and the planet is appealing, the challenge lies in implementing it while balancing the purposeful outcomes for different stakeholders and profit commitments to the market.

The objective of this dissertation is to explain how top management teams of for-profit incumbents drive purpose implementation while navigating the paradoxical tensions inherent in balancing multiple stakeholder expectations. This dissertation comprises three empirical studies based on qualitative case-based research methodology.

The first study develops an inductive purpose implementation process model comprising four stages motivation, creation, activation, and evaluation. The processual elements within each stage, the intervening organizational mechanisms, as well as the evolving role of the top management team further explain the process.

The second study identifies four interconnected paradoxes – legitimacy, goals, prioritization, and action – that emerge when purpose-driven decisions are implemented. An induced purpose activation framework shows that these paradoxes, left unaddressed, can pose significant barriers to the implementation process.

The third study shows how the emergent paradoxes can be managed by developing the strategic incumbency model comprising two approaches – prospective strategic orientation and retrospective incumbency advantages. This study contributes to purpose and paradox literature by improving the understanding of an end-to-end purpose implementation process, explaining the emergence of specific purpose-related paradoxes, and developing actionable pathways for managing them to achieve the purpose-driven reorientation of a for-profit firm.



  • Pr. Régis Coeurderoy
    Professor, ESCP Business School

Referees & Suffragants:

  • Dr. Jérôme Couturier
    Professor of Strategy and Management – ESCP Business School, Berlin
  • Dr. Anand NARASIMHAN
    Shell Professor of Global Leadership and Dean of Research – IMD
  • Dr. Georg WERNICKE
    Associate Professor, Strategy and Business Policy – HEC, Paris