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Centralized vs. Decentralized Management: an Experimental Study

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  • Jordi Brandts
  • David J. Cooper

Abstract

We introduce a new game to the experimental literature and use it to study how behavioral phenomena affect the tradeoffs between centralized and decentralized management. Our game models an organization with two divisions and one central manager. Each division must choose or be assigned a product. Ignoring asymmetric information, the underlying game is an asymmetric coordination game related to the Battle of the Sexes. In equilibrium, the divisions coordinate on identical products. Each division prefers an equilibrium where the selected products are closest to its local tastes while central management prefers the efficient equilibrium, determined by a randomly state of the world, which maximizes total payoffs. The state of the world is known to the divisions, but the central manager only learns about it through messages from the divisions who have incentives to lie. Contrary to the theory, overall performance is higher under centralization, where the central manager assigns products to divisions after receiving messages from the divisions, than under decentralization where the divisions choose their own products. Underlying this, mis-coordination is common under decentralization and divisions fail to use their information when they do coordinate. Mis-coordination is non-existent under centralization and there is a high degree of truth-telling by divisions as well. Performance under centralization is depressed by persistent sub-optimal use of information by center managers.

Suggested Citation

  • Jordi Brandts & David J. Cooper, 2015. "Centralized vs. Decentralized Management: an Experimental Study," Working Papers 854, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:bge:wpaper:854
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Silvia Dominguez Martinez & Randolph Sloof, 2016. "Communication versus (Restricted) Delegation: An Experimental Comparison," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 16-050/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    2. Jordi Brandts & Leonie Gerhards & Lydia Mechtenberg, 2018. "Deliberative Structures and their Impact on Voting under Economic Conflict," Working Papers 1022, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Coordination; experiments; Organizations; asymmetric Information;

    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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