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Does Product Market Competition Lead Firms to Decentralize?

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  • Nicholas Bloom

    ()
    (Department of Economics, Stanford University)

  • Raffaella Sadun

    ()
    (Harvard Business School, Strategy Unit)

  • John Van Reenen

    ()
    (Department of Economics, London School of Economics)

Abstract

There is a widespread sense that over the last two decades firms have been decentralizing decisions to employees further down the managerial hierarchy. Economists have developed a range of theories to account for delegation, but there is less empirical evidence, especially across countries. This has limited the ability to understand the phenomenon of decentralization. To address the empirical lacuna we have developed a research program to measure the internal organization of firms - including their decentralization decisions - across a large range of industries and countries. In this paper we investigate whether greater product market competition increases decentralization. For example, tougher competition may make local manager's information more valuable, as delays to decisions become more costly. Since globalization and liberalization have increased the competitiveness of product markets, one explanation for the trend towards decentralization could be increased competition. Of course there are a range of other factors that may also be at play, including human capital, information and communication technology, culture and industrial composition. To tackle these issues we collected detailed information on the internal organization of firms across nations. The few datasets that exist are either from a single industry or (at best) across many firms in a single country . We analyze data on almost 4,000 firms across twelve countries in Europe, North America and Asia. We find that competition does indeed seem to foster greater decentralization.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 10-052.

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Length: 12 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:10-052

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  1. D, Acemoglu & Philippe Aghion & Claire Lelarge & John Van Reenen & Fabrizzio Zilibotti, 2006. "Technology, Information and the Decentralization of the Firm," Working Papers 2006-12, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  2. Nicholas Bloom & Raffaella Sadun, 2012. "The Organization of Firms Across Countries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 127(4), pages 1663-1705.
  3. Hart, Oliver D. & Moore, John, 2005. "On the Design of Hierarchies: Coordination Versus Specialization," Scholarly Articles 3448676, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Philippe Aghion & Nick Bloom & Richard Blundell & Rachel Griffith & Peter Howitt, 2005. "Competition and Innovation: An Inverted-U Relationship," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(2), pages 701-728, May.
  5. Philippe Aghion & Jean Tirole, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Working papers 95-8, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  6. Guadalupe, Maria & Wulf, Julie, 2009. "The Flattening Firm and Product Market Competition," CEPR Discussion Papers 7253, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Garicano, Luis & Hubbard, Thomas N, 2007. "Managerial Leverage Is Limited by the Extent of the Market: Hierarchies, Specialization, and the Utilization of Lawyers' Human Capital," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 50(1), pages 1-43, February.
  8. Nick Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2006. "Measuring and Explaining Management Practices Across Firms and Countries," CEP Discussion Papers dp0716, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  9. Massimo G. Colombo & Marco Delmastro, 2004. "Delegation of Authority In Business Organizations: An Empirical Test," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(1), pages 53-80, 03.
  10. Jakub Kastl & David Martimort & Salvatore Piccolo, 2008. "Delegation and R&D Incentives: Theory and Evidence from Italy," 2008 Meeting Papers 1095, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  11. Bandiera, Oriana & Barankay, Iwan & Rasul, Imran, 2011. "Field Experiments with Firms," CEPR Discussion Papers 8412, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 1999. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. 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.
  14. Canice Prendergast, 2002. "The Tenuous Trade-off between Risk and Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(5), pages 1071-1102, October.
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