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A Change Would Do You Good... An Experimental Study on How to Overcome Coordination Failure in Organizations

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Listed:
  • Jordi Brandts
  • David J. Cooper

Abstract

Many organizations suffer poor performance because individuals within the organization fail to coordinate on efficient patterns of behavior. Using controlled laboratory experiments, we study how financial incentives can be used to find a way out of such performance traps. Our experiments are set in a corporate environment where subjects' payoffs depend on coordinating at high effort levels; the underlying game being played repeatedly by employees is a weak-link game. In an initial phase, the benefits of coordination are low relative to the cost of increased effort. Play in this initial phase typically converges to an inefficient outcome with employees failing to coordinate at high effort levels. The experimental design then explores the effects of varying the financial incentives to coordinate at a higher effort level. We find that an increase in the benefits of coordination leads to improved coordination, but, surprisingly, large increases have no more impact than small increases. Once subjects have coordinated on a higher effort level, reductions in the financial incentives to coordinate have little effect on behavior. Hence, a "shock therapy" of temporary increases in incentives to coordinate can lead to permanent improvements in an organization's performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Jordi Brandts & David J. Cooper, 2004. "A Change Would Do You Good... An Experimental Study on How to Overcome Coordination Failure in Organizations," Working Papers 115, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:115
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Incentives; Coordination; experiments; Organizations;

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production
    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects

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