Formal controls and team adaptability in new product development projects

Nina Detzen*, Frank H.M. Verbeeten, Nils Gamm, Klaus Möller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effects of two formal controls, namely target rigidity and process autonomy, on team adaptability and project success in new product development (NPD) projects. Target rigidity refers to performance goals that are non-negotiable once they have been set. Process autonomy refers to the extent to which a project team is free to choose ways to achieve its goals. Team adaptability is considered a key factor that explains the relationship between formal controls and project success. Design/methodology/approach: Two separate models related to resource and cost measures are analysed, since different target types may influence managerial perceptions. This study uses data collected from a survey with 113 project managers as respondents. Findings: The findings show that target rigidity and process autonomy support team adaptability. Furthermore, team adaptability mediates the impact of formal controls on project success. The effects are more pronounced for cost targets as compared to resource targets. Practical implications: Firms can increase project success by using formal controls in such a way that they allow project managers to provide their teams with motivating guidelines (target rigidity) and discretion (process autonomy) to adapt to new circumstances. Originality/value: This study reveals the impact of formal controls on NPD project success through team adaptability. A balanced use of target rigidity and process autonomy may help improving NPD project success.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1541-1558
Number of pages18
JournalManagement Decision
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2018


  • Formal controls
  • New product development projects
  • Performance measure use
  • Team adaptability


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