Balancing Search and Stability: Interdependencies Among Elements of Organizational Design
We examine how and why elements of organizational design depend on one another. An agent-based simulation allows us to model three design elements and two contextual variables that have rarely been analyzed jointly: a vertical hierarchy that reviews proposals from subordinates, an incentive system that rewards subordinates for departmental or firm-wide performance, the decomposition of an organization's many decisions into departments, the underlying pattern of interactions among decisions, and limits on the ability of managers to process information. Interdependencies arise among these features because of a basic, general tension. To be successful, an organization must broadly search for good sets of decisions, but it must also stabilize around good decisions once discovered. An effective organization balances search and stability. We identify sets of design elements that encourage broad search and others that promote stability. The adoption of elements that encourage broad search typically raises the marginal benefit of other elements that provide offsetting stability. Hence, the need to balance search and stability generates interdependencies among the design elements. We pay special attention to interdependencies that involve the vertical hierarchy. Our findings confirm many aspects of conventional wisdom about vertical hierarchies, but challenge or put boundary conditions on others. We place limits, for instance, on the received wisdom that firm-wide incentives and capable subordinates make top-level oversight less valuable. We also identify circumstances in which vertical hierarchies can lead to inferior long-term performance.
Volume (Year): 49 (2003)
Issue (Month): 3 (March)
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: 7240 Parkway Drive, Suite 300, Hanover, MD 21076 USA|
Web page: http://www.informs.org/
More information through EDIRC
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-28, June.
- Myong-Hun Chang & Joseph E. Harrington Jr., 2000.
"Centralization vs. Decentralization in a Multi-Unit Organization: A Computational Model of a Retail Chain as a Multi-Agent Adaptive System,"
00-02-010, Santa Fe Institute.
- Myong-Hun Chang & Joseph E. Harrington, 2000. "Centralization vs. Decentralization in a Multi-Unit Organization: A Computational Model of a Retail Chain as a Multi-Agent Adaptive System," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(11), pages 1427-1440, November.
- Myong-Hun Chang & Joseph Harrington, 2000. "Centralization vs. Decentralization in a Multi-Unit Organization: A Computational Model of a Retail Chain as a Multi-Agent Adaptive System," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 0860, Econometric Society.
- Philippe Aghion & Jean Tirole, 1994.
"Normal and Real Authority in Organizations,"
94-13, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
- Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," IDEI Working Papers 37, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
- Philippe Aghion & Jean Tirole, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Working papers 95-8, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
- Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Scholarly Articles 4554125, Harvard University Department of Economics.
- Marengo, Luigi, et al, 2000.
"The Structure of Problem-Solving Knowledge and the Structure of Organizations,"
Industrial and Corporate Change,
Oxford University Press, vol. 9(4), pages 757-88, December.
- Luigi Marengo & Giovanni Dosi & Paolo Legrenzi & Corrado Pasquali, 1999. "The structure of problem-solving knowledge and the structure of organisations," LEM Papers Series 1999/09, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
- Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1995. "Complementarities and fit strategy, structure, and organizational change in manufacturing," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 179-208, April.
- Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1994. "The Firm as an Incentive System," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 972-91, September.
- Fleming, Lee & Sorenson, Olav, 2001. "Technology as a complex adaptive system: evidence from patent data," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(7), pages 1019-1039, August.
- Kauffman, Stuart & Lobo, Jose & Macready, William G., 2000. "Optimal search on a technology landscape," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 141-166, October.
- Armen A. Alchian, 1950. "Uncertainty, Evolution, and Economic Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58, pages 211.
- Luis Garicano, 2000. "Hierarchies and the Organization of Knowledge in Production," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(5), pages 874-904, October.
- Kathleen M. Carley & Zhiang Lin, 1997. "A Theoretical Study of Organizational Performance Under Information Distortion," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(7), pages 976-997, July.
- Nicolaj Siggelkow, 2002. "Misperceiving Interactions Among Complements and Substitutes: Organizational Consequences," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(7), pages 900-916, July.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:49:y:2003:i:3:p:290-311. 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.