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The Demand for Coordination

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  • Dessein, Wouter
  • Santos, Jesus

Abstract

This paper endogenizes coordination problems in organizations by allowing for both ex ante coordination of activities, using rules and task guidelines, and ex post coordination, using communication and broad job assignments. It shows that: (i) Task specialization and the division of labour is mainly limited by employee discretion, rather than by the importance of coordination. In particular, specialization is often non-monotonic in the importance of coordination. (ii) Organizations exhibit increasing returns to ex post coordination. This rationalizes discrete ‘shifts’ in organizational design from very rigid and specialized task assignments, to very flexible organizations characterized by extensive task-bundling, intensive horizontal communication and substantial employee discretion. (iii) Broad task assignments and intensive horizontal communication are complementary. Hence, lower communication costs often result in less specialization.

Suggested Citation

  • Dessein, Wouter & Santos, Jesus, 2003. "The Demand for Coordination," CEPR Discussion Papers 4096, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4096
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lindbeck, Assar & Snower, Dennis J, 2000. "Multitask Learning and the Reorganization of Work: From Tayloristic to Holistic Organization," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 353-376, July.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Zoghi, Cindy & Levenson, Alec R. & Gibbs, Michael, 2005. "Why Are Jobs Designed the Way They Are?," IZA Discussion Papers 1529, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Dezsö Szalay & Ramon Arean, 2005. "Communicating with a Team of Experts," Cahiers de Recherches Economiques du Département d'Econométrie et d'Economie politique (DEEP) 05.12, Université de Lausanne, Faculté des HEC, DEEP.
    3. Raouf BOUCEKKINE & Patricia, CRIFO & Claudio, MATTALIA, 2007. "Technological Progress, Organizational Change and the Size of the Human Resources Departement," Discussion Papers (ECON - Département des Sciences Economiques) 2007047, Université catholique de Louvain, Département des Sciences Economiques.
    4. Andrea Patacconi, 2005. "Optimal Coordination in Hierarchies," Economics Series Working Papers 238, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    5. Paul Walker, 2010. "The (Non)Theory Of The Knowledge Firm," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 57(1), pages 1-32, February.
    6. Zamagni, Stefano, 2005. "Per una teoria economico-civile dell'impresa cooperativa," AICCON Working Papers 10-2005, Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    authority; communication; coordination; information technology; organizations; skills; specialization;

    JEL classification:

    • D2 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations
    • D8 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior

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