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Observability and Overcoming Coordination Failure in Organizations. An Experimental Study

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  • Jordi Brandts
  • David J. Cooper

Abstract

Many organizations suffer poor performance because its members fail to coordinate on efficient patterns of behavior. In previous research, we have shown that financial incentives can be used to find a way out of such performance traps. Here we examine the sensitivity of this result to the ability of people to observe others' choices. Our experiments are set in a corporate environment where subjects' payoffs depend on coordinating at high effort levels; the underlying game being played repeatedly by the employees of an experimental firm is a weak-link game. Treatments vary along two dimensions. First, subjects either start with low financial incentives for coordination, which typically leads to coordination failure, and then are switched to higher incentives or start with high incentives, which typically yield effective coordination, and are switched to low incentives. Second, as the key treatment variable, subjects either observe the effort levels chosen by all employees in their experimental firm (full feedback) or observe only the minimum effort (limited feedback). We find three primary results: (1) The use of full feedback improves the ability of organizations to overcome coordination failure, (2) The use of full feedback has no effect on the ability of successful organizations to avoid slipping into coordination failure, and (3) History-dependence is strengthened by the use of full feedback.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Barcelona Graduate School of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 143.

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Date of creation: Oct 2004
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Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:143

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Keywords: Incentives; Coordination; Observation; Experiments; Organizations;

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References

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  1. Jordi Brandts & David J. Cooper, 2004. "A Change Would Do You Good... An Experimental Study on How to Overcome Coordination Failure in Organizations," Working Papers 115, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  2. Offerman, T.J.S. & Potters, J.J.M. & Sonnemans, J., 2002. "Imitation and belief learning in an oligopoly experiment," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-91663, Tilburg University.
  3. Steffen Huck & Hans-Theo Normann & Joerg Oechssler, 1998. "Does information about competitors' actions increase or decrease competition in experimental oligopoly markets?," Industrial Organization 9803004, EconWPA.
  4. J. B. Van Huyck & R. C. Battalio & R. O. Beil, 2010. "Tacit coordination games, strategic uncertainty, and coordination failure," Levine's Working Paper Archive 661465000000000393, David K. Levine.
  5. Cooper, David J. & Kagel, John H., 2003. "The impact of meaningful context on strategic play in signaling games," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 50(3), pages 311-337, March.
  6. Fernando Vega Redondo, 1996. "The evolution of walrasian behavior," Working Papers. Serie AD 1996-05, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  7. C. Mónica Capra & Tomomi Tanaka & Colin F. Camerer & Lauren Munyan & Veronica Sovero & Lisa Wang & Charles Noussair, 2005. "The Impact of Simple Institutions in Experimental Economies with Poverty Traps," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000662, UCLA Department of Economics.
  8. Antoni Bosch-Domènech & Nicolaas J. Vriend, 1998. "Imitation of succesful behavior in Cournot markets," Economics Working Papers 269, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised May 1999.
  9. Roberto Weber & Colin Camerer & Marc Knez, 2004. "Timing and Virtual Observability in Ultimatum Bargaining and “Weak Link†Coordination Games," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 7(1), pages 25-48, February.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Francesco Feri & Bernd Irlenbusch & Matthias Sutter, 2010. "Efficiency Gains from Team-Based Coordination—Large-Scale Experimental Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1892-1912, September.
  2. Jordi Brandts & David J. Cooper, 2004. "A Change Would Do You Good . . . An Experimental Study on How to Overcome Coordination Failure in Organizations," UFAE and IAE Working Papers 606.04, Unitat de Fonaments de l'Anàlisi Econòmica (UAB) and Institut d'Anàlisi Econòmica (CSIC).
  3. Cary Deck & Nikos Nikiforakis, 2012. "Perfect and imperfect real-time monitoring in a minimum-effort game," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 71-88, March.
  4. Banerjee, Simanti & de, Vries Frans & Hanley, Nicholas & van, Soest Daan, 2013. "The Impact of Information Provision on Agglomeration Bonus Performance: An Experimental Study on Local Networks," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2013-09, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
  5. Stefania Bortolotti & Giovanna Devetag & Andreas Ortmann, 2009. "Exploring the effects of real effort in a weak-link experiment," CEEL Working Papers 0901, Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory, Department of Economics, University of Trento, Italia.
  6. Sam Asher & Lorenzo Casaburi & Plamen Nikolov, 2011. "One Step at a Time: Does Gradualism Build Coordination?," Working Papers 1113, University of Namur, Department of Economics.
  7. Chong, Sophia & Guillen, Pablo, 2012. "The discreet charm of the collective contract," Working Papers 2012-03, University of Sydney, School of Economics.
  8. Cason, Timothy N. & Sheremeta, Roman M. & Zhang, Jingjing, 2012. "Communication and efficiency in competitive coordination games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 26-43.
  9. Banerjee, Simanti & Kwasnica, Anthony M & Shortle, James S, 2011. "Agglomeration Bonus in Local Networks: A laboratory examination of spatial coordination failure," Stirling Economics Discussion Papers 2011-18, University of Stirling, Division of Economics.
  10. Blaufus, Kay & Möhlmann, Axel, 2012. "Security returns and tax aversion bias: Behavioral responses to tax labels," arqus Discussion Papers in Quantitative Tax Research 133, arqus - Arbeitskreis Quantitative Steuerlehre.
  11. Alfonso Rosa García & Hubert Janos Kiss & Ismael Rodríguez Lara, 2009. "Do social networks prevent bank runs?," Working Papers. Serie AD 2009-25, Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Económicas, S.A. (Ivie).
  12. Dietmar Fehr, 2011. "The Persistence of "Bad" Precedents and the Need for Communication: A Coordination Experiment," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2011-039, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.
  13. Hubert Janos Kiss & Ismael Rodriguez-Lara & Alfonso Rosa-Garcia, 2013. "Do Social Networks Prevent or Promote Bank Runs?," IEHAS Discussion Papers 1344, Institute of Economics, Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

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