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The Bias of Structures: How Multidivisional Organizations Work in the Public Sector


  • Marian Döhler

    () (Leibniz Universität Hannover)


Abstract This paper discusses the unexploited possibilities that organization theory offers for explaining the policy output of public-sector organizations. Although political scientists frequently argue that organization matters, exactly how it matters remains unresolved. To investigate this issue, the concept of the multidivisional organization (M-form) is applied to the public sector. Three dimensions of the M-form are identified for closer inspection: 1) the structure-strategy relationship, 2) the managerial or leadership dimension, and 3) the external-relations dimension. Several empirical examples are used to demonstrate that the M-form exerts an independent impact on policy output. While the M-form allows a single organization to perform multiple functions, it also works against crosscutting policies and is inclined toward clientelism and capture. The use of the M-form concept is beneficial for political science analyses in that it requires paying greater attention to the “internal life” of governmental and public-sector organizations.

Suggested Citation

  • Marian Döhler, 2017. "The Bias of Structures: How Multidivisional Organizations Work in the Public Sector," Public Organization Review, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 83-100, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:porgrv:v:17:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11115-015-0329-8
    DOI: 10.1007/s11115-015-0329-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Tirole, Jean, 1994. "The Internal Organization of Government," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(1), pages 1-29, January.
    2. Johan P. Olsen, 2007. "Organization theory, public administration, democratic governance," ARENA Working Papers 1, ARENA.
    3. Majone, Giandomenico, 1997. "From the Positive to the Regulatory State: Causes and Consequences of Changes in the Mode of Governance," Journal of Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(02), pages 139-167, May.
    4. Avinash Dixit, 2002. "# Incentives and Organizations in the Public Sector: An Interpretative Review," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(4), pages 696-727.
    5. repec:reg:rpubli:219 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Andrew Whitford, 2006. "Unitary, Divisional, And Matrix Forms As Political Governance Systems," Journal of Management & Governance, Springer;Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale (AIDEA), vol. 10(4), pages 435-454, November.
    7. Dessaux, Pierre-Antoine & Mazaud, Jean-Philippe, 2006. "Hybridizing the Emerging European Corporation: Danone, Hachette, and the Divisionalization Process in France during the 1970s," Enterprise & Society, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(02), pages 227-265, June.
    8. Moe, Terry M, 1991. "Politics and the Theory of Organization," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 106-129, Special I.
    9. Kogut, Bruce & Parkinson, David, 1998. "Adoption of the Multidivisional Structure: Analyzing History from the Start," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(2), pages 249-273, June.
    10. Pollitt, Christopher & Bouckaert, Geert, 2004. "Public Management Reform: A Comparative Analysis," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, edition 2, number 9780199268498.
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