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The Demand for Coordination

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  • Wouter Dessein
  • Tano Santos

Abstract

This paper endogenizes coordination problems in organizations by allowing for both ex ante coordination of activities, using rules and task guidelines, and ex post coordination, using communication and broad job assignments. It shows that: (i) Task specialization and the division of labor is mainly limited by employee discretion, rather than by the importance of coordination. In particular, specialization is often non-monotonic in the importance of coordination. (ii) Organizations exhibit increasing returns to ex post coordination. This rationalizes discrete `shifts' in organizational design from very rigid and specialized task assignments, to very flexible organizations characterized by extensive task bundling, intensive horizontal communication and substantial employee discretion. (iii) Broad task assignments and intensive horizontal communication are complementary. Hence, lower communication costs often result in less specialization.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10056.

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Date of creation: Nov 2003
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10056

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  1. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The Skill Content Of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1279-1333, November.
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Cited by:
  1. Raouf BOUCEKKINE & Patricia, CRIFO & Claudio, MATTALIA, 2007. "Technological Progress, Organizational Change and the Size of the Human Resources Departement," Discussion Papers (ECON - Département des Sciences Economiques), Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques 2007047, Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques.
  2. Andrea Patacconi, 2005. "Optimal Coordination in Hierarchies," Economics Series Working Papers, University of Oxford, Department of Economics 238, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  3. Dezsö Szalay & Ramon Arean, 2005. "Communicating with a Team of Experts," Cahiers de Recherches Economiques du Département d'Econométrie et d'Economie politique (DEEP), Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, DEEP 05.12, Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, DEEP.
  4. Cindy Zoghi & Alec Levenson & Michael Gibbs, 2005. "Why Are Jobs Designed the Way They Are?," Working Papers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 382, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  5. Zamagni, Stefano, 2005. "Per una teoria economico-civile dell'impresa cooperativa," AICCON Working Papers, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit 10-2005, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.

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