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Control: Organizational and Economic Approaches


  • Kathleen M. Eisenhardt

    (Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305)


Organizational design often focuses on structural alternatives such as matrix, decentralization, and divisionalization. However, control variables (e.g., reward structures, task characteristics, and information systems) offer a more flexible approach. The purpose of this paper is to explore these control variables for organizational design. This is accomplished by integration and testing of two perspectives, organization theory and economics, notably agency theory. The resulting hypotheses link task characteristics, information systems, and business uncertainty to behavior vs. outcome based control strategy. These hypothesized linkages are examined empirically in a field study of the compensation practices for retail salespeople in 54 stores. The findings are that task programmability is strongly related to the choice of compensation package. The amount of behavioral measurement, the cost of measuring outcomes, and the uncertainty of the business also affect compensation. The findings have management implications for the design of compensation and reward packages, performance evaluation systems, and control systems, in general. Such systems should explicitly consider the task, the information system in place to measure performance, and the riskiness of the business. More programmed tasks require behavior based controls while less programmed tasks require more elaborate information systems or outcome based controls.

Suggested Citation

  • Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, 1985. "Control: Organizational and Economic Approaches," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 31(2), pages 134-149, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:31:y:1985:i:2:p:134-149

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