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Why Hierarchy? Communication and Information Acquisition in Organizations

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  • Junichiro Ishida

Abstract

In most firms, if not all, workers are divided asymmetrically in terms of authority and responsibility. In this paper, we view the asymmetric allocations of authority and responsibility as essential features of hierarchy and examine why hierarchies often prevail in organizations from that perspective. The focus of attention is on the tradeoff between costly information acquisition and costless communication. When the agency problem concerning information acquisition is sufficiently severe, the contractual arrangement which allocates responsibility asymmetrically often emerges as the optimal organizational form, which gives rise to the chain of command pertaining to hierarchical organizations. This explains why hierarchies often prevail in firms since a relatively fixed group of members must confront with new problems and come up with solutions on the day-to-day basis, and hence the agency problem is an issue to be reckoned with.

Suggested Citation

  • Junichiro Ishida, 2009. "Why Hierarchy? Communication and Information Acquisition in Organizations," ISER Discussion Paper 0751, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University.
  • Handle: RePEc:dpr:wpaper:0751
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    File URL: http://www.iser.osaka-u.ac.jp/library/dp/2009/DP0751.pdf
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    1. Gilat Levy, 2007. "Decision Making in Committees: Transparency, Reputation, and Voting Rules," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 150-168, March.
    2. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 1-29, February.
    3. Junichiro Ishida & Takashi Shimizu, 2016. "Cheap talk with an informed receiver," Economic Theory Bulletin, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 4(1), pages 61-72, April.
    4. Wouter Dessein, 2002. "Authority and Communication in Organizations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 69(4), pages 811-838.
    5. Hao Li, 2001. "A Theory of Conservatism," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 617-636, June.
    6. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 2001. "The Firm as a Dedicated Hierarchy: A Theory of the Origins and Growth of Firms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(3), pages 805-851.
    7. Vijay Krishna & John Morgan, 2001. "A Model of Expertise," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(2), pages 747-775.
    8. 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.
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