We report findings from an in-depth single case study about a failed new venture initiative in a large firm that suggest that attentional agency (i.e. the exercise of discretion by managers over the distribution and allocation of attention of other organizational members) and the incompleteness of governance channels (i.e. the formal and informal mechanisms set up by managers to provide the necessary information to guide their attention) are key determinants of the distribution of organizational attention and behavior of organizational members. Our findings demonstrate the central role of individual discretion, as opposed to structural determinism, to organizational attention and behavior. They also suggest that attentional agency and incomplete governance channels may lead to incoherence in the implementation of a strategic initiative as well as a drift away from initial scope and objectives and languishing of the initiative, which may be countered by a focus on quality of attention. Finally, they highlight the crucial role of the quality of top management attention, rather than top management support per se, in determining the performance of a corporate venture.