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Goal Setting in Family Firms: Goal Diversity, Social Interactions, and Collective Commitment to Family-Centered Goals


  • Josip Kotlar,

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    • Josip Kotlar is a research fellow at University of Bergamo, Center for Young & Family Enterprise, Via Pasubio 7B, 24044 Dalmine (BG)—Italy.
  • Alfredo De Massis

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    • Alfredo De Massis is Director of the Family Business Centre at Lancaster University Management School (UK) and professor in the area of Family Business at University of Bergamo, Center for Young & Family Enterprise, Via Pasubio 7B, 24044 Dalmine (BG)—Italy.

  • We are grateful to Lloyd Steier and the two anonymous reviewers for their guidance. We are also indebted to James J. Chrisman, Jess H. Chua, and Pramodita Sharma for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. An earlier version of this article received the Best Paper Award at the Family Enterprise Research Conference, Montreal (Canada), May 2012.

Please send correspondence to: Josip Kotlar, tel.: +39 035 2052047; e-mail:, and to Alfredo De Massis at


Goal setting in family firms is very complex due to the interplay between family and business systems. However, this topic is largely overlooked in family business research. In this qualitative study of goals and goal formulation processes among 76 organizational members across 19 family firms, we identify goal diversity as a direct consequence of the overlap between the family, ownership, and business systems. We found that goal diversity is expressed more strongly in the proximity of generational transitions, triggering social interaction processes through which organizational members contrast their goals. Our findings suggest that different types of social interactions lead to different behaviors, with familial social interactions being more effective than professional social interactions in managing goal diversity toward the formation of collective commitment to family-centered goals.