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On the Design of Hierarchies: Coordination Versus Specialization

  • Oliver Hart
  • John Moore

We develop a model of hierarchies based on the allocation of authority. A firm's owners have ultimate authority over a firm's decisions, but they have limited time or capacity to exercise this authority. Hence owners must delegate authority to subordinates. However, these subordinates also have limited time or capacity and so further delegation must occur. We analyze the optimal chain of command given that different agents have different tasks: some agents are engaged in coordination and others in specialization. Our theory throws light on the nature of hierarchy, the optimal degree of decentralization, and the boundaries of the firm.

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Paper provided by Harvard - Institute of Economic Research in its series Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers with number 1880.

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Date of creation: 1999
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:1880
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  1. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1988. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Working papers 495, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  2. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver, 1985. "The Cost and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," CEPR Discussion Papers 70, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Bolton, Patrick & Farrell, Joseph, 1990. "Decentralization, Duplication, and Delay," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(4), pages 803-26, August.
  4. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1994. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," IDEI Working Papers 37, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  5. Argyres, Nicholas S., 1995. "Technology strategy, governance structure and interdivisional coordination," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 337-358, December.
  6. Sherwin Rosen, 1982. "Authority, Control, and the Distribution of Earnings," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 311-323, Autumn.
  7. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 2000. "The Firm as a Dedicated Hierarchy: A Theory of the Origin and Growth of Firms," NBER Working Papers 7546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Hart, Oliver, 1995. "Firms, Contracts, and Financial Structure," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198288817, December.
  9. 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.
  10. Baker, George & Gibbons, Robert & Murphy, Kevin J, 1999. "Informal Authority in Organizations," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 15(1), pages 56-73, April.
  11. Michael D. Hurd & James P. Smith, 1999. "Anticipated and Actual Bequests," NBER Working Papers 7380, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Hart, Oliver D. & Moore, John, 2005. "On the Design of Hierarchies: Coordination Versus Specialization," Scholarly Articles 3448676, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  13. Patrick Bolton & Mathias Dewatripont, 1994. "The Firm as a Communication Network," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 809-839.
  14. Alfred D. Chandler, 1969. "Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the American Industrial Enterprise," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262530090, December.
  15. David C. King & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 1999. "Congressional Vote Options," NBER Working Papers 7342, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Timothy van Zandt, 1999. "Real-Time Decentralized Information Processing as a Model of Organizations with Boundedly Rational Agents," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(3), pages 633-658.
  17. Michael Keren & David Levhari, 1979. "The Optimum Span of Control in a Pure Hierarchy," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 25(11), pages 1162-1172, November.
  18. Robert E. Lipsey, 1999. "Foreign Production by U.S. Firms and Parent Firm Employment," NBER Working Papers 7357, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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