The Theory of Planned Behaviour and its relevance for thinking about exit

‘As every student of psychology knows, explaining human behaviour in all its complexity is a difficult task’. (Azjen, I, 1991)

I’m just going to nip to Tesco’s for some bread. (stay with me!)

I came back with four tins of baked beans, some dishwasher tablets, two lots of Easter Eggs (in January) and rolls. I didn’t even get the bread.

I planned but, along the way, I got hijacked, emotionally and physically. In some cases, I got seduced, or manoeuvred, by external factors.

But what has this got to do with exiting a business, or a change in strategy?

The world isn’t binary and we have only a limited number of things within our control (without referring back to the Stoics too much and focussing on controlling the controllable!). Furthermore, planned behaviour has an element of assumption. Azjen continues in his Theory of Planned Behaviour Paper ‘a central factor in the theory of planned behaviour is the individual’s intention to perform a given behaviour’. These in turn will capture internal factors, such as desire, motivation, rational assumption but be heavily influenced by external factors, the globe, the markets, the role of a shock mechanic. Something unseen and potentially unplanned for.

Reasoning can look like a plan for exit along a stewardship strategy. It may be a reasonable assumption that the path the entrepreneur intends is reasonable in action, assumption and desire. But how would a global pandemic influence that path? How many variables would there be to contend with? Importantly how can those external factors be prepared for and navigated? Especially in times of uniqueness. We can assume (and hope!) that usually a planned behaviour is a force for some kind of good and positivity. External factors have an ability to interfere, occasionally unwelcome interference – and how do entrepreneurs learn to cope with that potential emotional hijack in a world where they are already heavily laden with challenges?

This is when academia, entrepreneurship and psychology need to continue to work together to investigate and create access to the commercial world. There is very little research into exit theory plans and actual performed exits. Primarily due to access to entrepreneurs being a prohibiting factor.

But does it matter? Does it matter if you went to the shop and came home with beans instead of bread? Context here is rather important. If you wanted toast, yes. If you didn’t like beans, yes. If you wanted to fend off hunger, no. Perhaps we can say the same as we continue to explore the phenomenon of planned vs actual behavioural theories.

Thanks for reading, as always it is great to hear thoughts and help the conversation continue to flow.

Simon’s research is ongoing and he is keen to invite contact and discussion with anyone who is considering exiting their business. Click here to contact him

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