IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Effectiveness as Paradox: Consensus and Conflict in Conceptions of Organizational Effectiveness

Listed author(s):
  • Kim S. Cameron

    (Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109)

Registered author(s):

    Attention to the subject of organizational effectiveness has been increasing in the last several years as popular management books have extolled management excellence, almost two million jobs have been lost due to poor U.S. competitiveness, and economic conditions have put pressure on organizations to become more accountable with their resources. However, despite its popularity, much confusion continues in the organizational literature regarding the definition, circumscription, and appropriate criteria for assessing effectiveness. In this paper, I summarize what areas are becoming consensual among most writers on effectiveness, and I point out continuing areas of disagreement and conflict. The five statements summarizing consensual characteristics of effectiveness and the three statements summarizing areas of continuing conflict point out that agreement about effectiveness is mainly an agreement to disagree. Conflicts center mainly on the incompatibility and inappropriateness of commonly selected criteria. The main theme of the paper, however, is a discussion of an inherent, but largely ignored, characteristic of effectiveness in organizations---the paradoxical nature of effectiveness criteria. This discussion illustrates that the most effective organizations are also those characterized by paradoxes---i.e., contradictions, simultaneous opposites, and incompatibilities. Taking account of this characteristic helps explain one reason why so much confusion and disagreement continues to surround effectiveness, and it uncovers a new set of research questions that can guide future investigations. Some suggestions are provided for how research on paradoxes in effectiveness might be pursued in the future.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

    Volume (Year): 32 (1986)
    Issue (Month): 5 (May)
    Pages: 539-553

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:32:y:1986:i:5:p:539-553
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    7240 Parkway Drive, Suite 300, Hanover, MD 21076 USA

    Phone: +1-443-757-3500
    Fax: 443-757-3515
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:32:y:1986:i:5:p:539-553. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mirko Janc)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.