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Authority and Discretion Tensions, Credible Delegation and Implications for New Organizational Forms

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  • Kirsten Foss
  • Nicolai J. Foss

Abstract

We analyze a key problem in organization theory and design, namely the potential tension between authority (i.e., the power to make decisions which guide the decisions of another person) and the discretion of employees (i.e., the ability of an agent to control resources including his own human capital). The problem is rooted in the fact that in organizations, decisions rights are always loaned rather than owned; a hierarchical superior can always in principle overrule a hierarchical inferior. We provide an integrative treatment of the tensions that are involved in the interaction between authority and discretion, and the motivational problems that may result from this tension. We discuss how these problems may be checked by credible managerial commitments and other mechanisms. The framework is then applied to an analysis of new organizational forms, specifically internal hybrids. Thus, the framework adds to the understanding of the costs and benefits of alternative organizational forms.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies in its series DRUID Working Papers with number 02-11.

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Date of creation: 2002
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Handle: RePEc:aal:abbswp:02-11

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Web page: http://www.druid.dk/

Related research

Keywords: Managerial intervention; credible delegation; new organizational forms; organizational economics;

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  1. Gal-Or, Esther & Amit, Raphael, 1998. "Does empowerment lead to higher quality and profitability?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 411-431, September.
  2. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 1998. "Power In A Theory Of The Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(2), pages 387-432, May.
  3. Sah, Raaj Kumar & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1985. "Human Fallibility and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 292-97, May.
  4. Armstrong, M., 1994. "Delegation and discretion," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 9421, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
  5. Nahum D. Melumad & Dilip Mookherjee & Stefan Reichelstein, 1995. "Hierarchical Decentralization of Incentive Contracts," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 26(4), pages 654-672, Winter.
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  8. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," IDEI Working Papers 37, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  9. Nicolai J. Foss, 2001. "Selective Intervention and Internal HybridsInterpreting and Learning from the Rise and Decline of the Oticon Spaghetti Organization," DRUID Working Papers 01-16, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
  10. Baker, George & Gibbons, Robert & Murphy, Kevin J, 1999. "Informal Authority in Organizations," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 56-73, April.
  11. Dow, Gregory K., 1987. "The function of authority in transaction cost economics," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 13-38, March.
  12. Klein, Benjamin & Leffler, Keith B, 1981. "The Role of Market Forces in Assuring Contractual Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 615-41, August.
  13. Margit Osterloh & Bruno S. Frey, . "Motivation, Knowledge Transfer, and Organizational Form," IEW - Working Papers 027, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  14. Foss, Kirsten, 2001. "Organizing Technological Interdependencies: A Coordination Perspective on the Firm," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(1), pages 151-78, March.
  15. Michael C. Jensen & William H. Heckling, 1995. "Specific And General Knowledge, And Organizational Structure," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 8(2), pages 4-18.
  16. Herbert A. Simon, 1991. "Organizations and Markets," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 25-44, Spring.
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Cited by:
  1. Nicolai J. Foss & Keld Laursen, 2002. "Performance Pay, Delegation, and Multitasking under Uncertainty and Innovativeness An Empirical Investigation," DRUID Working Papers 02-14, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.

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