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Uncertainty, Task Environment, and Organization Design: An Empirical Investigation

Author

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  • Avner Ben-Ner

    (Industrial Relations Center, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota)

  • Fanmin Kong

    (Guanghua School of Management, Peking University)

  • Stéphanie Lluis

    (Department of Economics, University of Waterloo)

Abstract

The paper addresses two broad research questions: 1. How do internal uncertainty associated with the task environment and external uncertainty arising from market volatility impact organization design? 2. What are the relationships among various elements of organization design: delegation of decision-making, incentives, monitoring, and internal labor market practices (promotion, training, employment security)? We expand on Prendergast (2002a), who challenged the conventional view of a tradeoff between risk and incentives, and build a single unified framework for answering our two research questions. Using a uniquely rich dataset that contains detailed information about the task environment of core employees and organization design at the individual, group and firms levels in 530 Minnesota firms in the mid 1990s, we first find support for Prendergast's key argument that internal uncertainty (over which employees have control) affects directly the allocation of decision-making and only indirectly incentives (via allocation of decision-making). This confirms similar findings by Foss and Laursen (2005), DeVaro and Kurtulus (2010) and Shi (2011). We also find that internal uncertainty has much impact on organization design through the choice of delegation of decision-making at the employee level, less so at the group level, and very little at the firm level, whereas external (market) uncertainty has little effect on organization design, especially at the individual and group level. Decision-making, monitoring, various internal labor market practices and incentives are strongly related to each other through substitution and complementarity.

Suggested Citation

  • Avner Ben-Ner & Fanmin Kong & Stéphanie Lluis, 2011. "Uncertainty, Task Environment, and Organization Design: An Empirical Investigation," Working Papers 1105, University of Waterloo, Department of Economics, revised Dec 2011.
  • Handle: RePEc:wat:wpaper:1105
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Canice Prendergast, 2015. "The economics of wild goose chases," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 46(1), pages 146-164, March.
    2. Ben-Ner, Avner, 2013. "Preferences and organization structure: Toward behavioral economics micro-foundations of organizational analysis," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 87-96.
    3. Marco A. Barrenechea-Mendez & Avner Ben-Ner, 2017. "Mission Congruence and Organization Design: An Empirical Analysis of Childcare Facilities," Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(3), pages 411-426, July.
    4. Marco a. Barrenechea‐méndez & Pedro Ortín‐Ángel & Eduardo C. Rodes, 2016. "Autonomy and Monitoring," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(4), pages 911-935, December.
    5. Avner Ben-Ner & Matthew Ellman, 2013. "The contributions of behavioural economics to understanding and advancing the sustainability of worker cooperatives," Journal of Entrepreneurial and Organizational Diversity, European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises, vol. 2(1), pages 75-100, August.

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    • L20 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - General

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