Posts filed under ‘Management Theory’
| Dick Langlois |
The title of this paper caught my attention.
“Cognition & Capabilities: A Multi-Level Perspective”
J. P. Eggers and Sarah Kaplan
Academy of Management Annals 7(1): 293-338
Research on managerial cognition and on organizational capabilities has essentially developed in two parallel tracks. We know much from the resource-based view about the relationship between capabilities and organizational performance. Separately, managerial cognition scholars have shown how interpretations of the environment shape organizational responses. Only recently have scholars begun to link the two sets of insights. These new links suggest that routines and capabilities are based in particular understandings about how things should be done, that the value of these capabilities is subject to interpretation, and that even the presence of capabilities may be useless without managerial interpretations of their match to the environment. This review organizes these emerging insights in a multi-level cognitive model of capability development and deployment. The model focuses on the recursive processes of constructing routines (capability building blocks), assembling routines into capabilities, and matching capabilities to perceived opportunities. To date, scholars have focused most attention on the organizational-level process of matching. Emerging research on the microfoundations of routines contributes to the micro-level of analysis. The lack of research on capability assembly leaves the field without a bridge connecting the macro and micro levels. The model offers suggestions for research directions to address these challenges.
The reason it caught my eye is that some 16 years ago I published a paper with exactly the same title (albeit with a different subtitle). Of course, I didn’t approach the issue in exactly the way these authors do, which is obviously close to Nicolai’s work on microfoundations. But I did arguably try to “link the two sets of insights,” and I did not do so “only recently.”
| Peter Klein |
That’s the title of a new review paper by Nicolai and me for the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Sociology, Social Theory, and Organizational Studies, edited by Paul Adler, Paul du Gay, Glenn Morgan, and Mike Reed (Oxford University Press, 2013). No, we haven’t gone over to the Dark Side (I mean, the good side), we just think Hayek’s work deserves to be better known among all scholars of organization, not only economists. Unlike many treatments of Hayek, we don’t focus exclusively, or even primarily, on tacit knowledge, but on capital theory, procedural rules, and other aspects of Hayek’s “Austrian” thinking.
You can download the paper at SSRN. Here’s the abstract:
We briefly survey Hayek’s work and argue for its increasing relevance for organizational scholars. Hayek’s work inspired aspects of the transaction cost approach to the firm as well as knowledge management and knowledge-based view of the firm. But Hayek is usually seen within organizational scholarship as a narrow, technical economist. We hope to change that perception here by pointing to his work on rules, evolution, entrepreneurship and other aspects of his wide-ranging oeuvre with substantive implications for organizational theory.
| Peter Klein |
We’ve written many posts on the popular belief that information technology, globalization, deregulation, and the like have rendered the corporate hierarchy obsolete, or at least led to a substantial “flattening” of the modern corporation (see the links here). The theory is all wrong — these environmental changes affect the costs of both internal and external governance, and the net effect on firm size and structure are ambiguous — and the data don’t support a general trend toward smaller and flatter firms.
Julie Wulf has a paper in the Fall 2012 California Management Review summarizing her careful and detailed empirical work on the shape of corporate hierarchies. (The published version is paywalled, but here is a free version.) Writes Julie:
I set out to investigate the flattening phenomenon using a variety of methods, including quantitative analysis of large datasets and more qualitative research in the field involving executive interviews and a survey on executive time use. . . .
We discovered that flattening has occurred, but it is not what it is widely assumed to be. In line with the conventional view of flattening, we find that CEOs eliminated layers in the management ranks, broadened their spans of control, and changed pay structures in ways suggesting some decisions were in fact delegated to lower levels. But, using multiple methods of analysis, we find other evidence sharply at odds with the prevailing view of flattening. In fact, flattened firms exhibited more control and decision-making at the top. Not only did CEOs centralize more functions, such that a greater number of functional managers (e.g., CFO, Chief Human Resource Officer, CIO) reported directly to them; firms also paid lower-level division managers less when functional managers joined the top team, suggesting more decisions at the top. Furthermore, CEOs report in interviews that they flattened to “get closer to the businesses” and become more involved, not less, in internal operations. Finally, our analysis of CEO time use indicates that CEOs of flattened firms allocate more time to internal interactions. Taken together, the evidence suggests that flattening transferred some decision rights from lower-level division managers to functional managers at the top. And flattening is associated with increased CEO involvement with direct reports —the second level of top management—suggesting a more hands-on CEO at the pinnacle of the hierarchy.
As they say, read the whole thing.
| Peter Klein |
| Nicolai Foss |
Kathleen Eisenhardt’s 1989 Academy of Management Review paper is likely still the first, but hopefully not the last, exposure many management scholars have to agency theory. The paper is somewhat imprecise, and it shows its age, but as an introduction to the theory, one can do worse. However, much has in fact happened in agency theory since 1989 in terms of extensions and refinements of the theory, and also in terms of critical reactions, some of which have been partly aligned with the theory.
In particular, (some) economists and (more) management scholars (e.g., Wiseman and Gomez-Mejia) have tried to bring behavioral perspectives into agency theory. In a new paper (forthcoming in the Journal of Management), Alexander Pepper of the LSE and Julie Gore of the University of Surrey provide a useful overview of “behavioral agency theory,” somewhat in the style of Eisenhardt’s earlier review (i.e., with propositions that summarize the earlier literature). They include, for example, prospect theory, work on inequity aversion and even self-determination theory under the behavioral hat, and thus bring both cognitive and motivational issues into the orbit of behavioral agency theory.
A few mildly critical comments.
- There is no claim in the paper that the various behavioral ideas are consistent and “add up,” but this is something that should perhaps have been discussed. Standard theory may make extreme assumptions but it is a highly consistent and neat theory. In contrast, behavioral agency theory is a bouillabaise of very different ingredients that are linked to the standard theory in a somewhat ad hoc manner.
- The authors position and motivate the paper in terms of gaining more insight into executive compensation, but of course the scope of behavioral agency theory is much broader.
- The authors, like Eisenhardt, repeats Michael Jensen’s distinction between “positive agency theory” and “principal-agent theory,” which makes as little sense today as it did in 1983 ;-)
Still, Pepper and Gore’s paper is definitely worth a read and I highly recommend it.
| Nicolai Foss |
From the official SMG blog, Strategy and Organization:
A long-standing discussion in management research concerns the relation between capabilities perspectives on the firm and organizational economics, including transaction cost economics and agency theory. In particular, proponents of capabilities ideas have criticized organizational economics for exaggerating the role of opportunism (and similar constructs), neglecting value creation and downplaying dynamics. Conversely, proponents of organizational economics have criticized the lack of a clear unit of analysis, causal mechanisms and micro-foundations in the capabilities approach.
“While these early debates clarified many things,” says SMG Professor Nicolai J Foss, “the field is increasingly moving towards a more conciliatory stance in which the two perspectives are seen as capable of cross-fertilizing each other. This is going further than merely stressing a relation of complementarity in which capabilities ideas lend themselves to the explanation of organizational heterogeneity while organizational economics provides the understanding of the organization of heterogeneous resources and capabilities. The new view is that, notably, organizational economics has the potential of illuminating capability emergence and therefore organizational heterogeneity.”
With Nicholas Argyres (Washington University), Teppo Felin (Brigham Young University), and Todd Zenger (Washington University) Foss is an editor of the September-October issue of the leading management research journal, Organization Science, titled “Organizational Economics and Capabilities: From Opposition and Complementarity to Real Integration” (http://orgsci.journal.informs.org/content/23/5.toc). This special issue contains a number of articles by leading contributors to the discussion, and mixes theoretical, empirical and modeling approaches, as well as an introduction by the editors that survey the debate and defines a new agenda for research in the field.
“We are pleased that we got so many high-level contributions for this special issue,” says Foss, “and in particular that these contributions truly manage to define a new, creative research frontier where the emphasis is on researching the interplay between theoretical mechanisms identified by the two perspectives.
| Peter Klein |
Following up an earlier post on the longevity of obsolete technologies, as specialty markets: Francesco Schiavone has a nice paper, “Vintage Innovation: How to Improve the Service Characteristics and Costumer Effectiveness of Products becoming Obsolete,” reviewing the core theory and discussing the case of the analog turntable (little did I know, not being a club DJ, that you can by a “vinyl emulator” to go wacka-wacka-wacka on your MP3s). Francesco’s Vintage Innovation website has more examples. Check it out!
| Peter Klein |
Carpenter’s Strategy Toolbox, named for the late Mason Carpenter, is a terrific resource for teachers in strategic management and related fields. Here’s an advertisement from former guest blogger Russ Coff:
Some of you may be familiar with Mason Carpenter’s old teaching toolkit. I have initiated a new site that includes everything from that site plus quite a few additional exercises and videos. Please check it out at:
You can filter by type of tool (exercise, video, etc.) using the tabs at the top or you can filter by topic (entrepreneurship, 5 forces, RBV, global, alliances, etc.) using the categories on the right side. You should find something useful in no time at all.
Here are links to a few exercises and resources that you might find especially useful (to give you a quick feel):
- Egg Drop Auction is an exercise where profit is determined by finding new uses for materials that others did not anticipate.
- Blue Ocean Strategy summary video (plus several related videos like Cirque Du Soliel).
- Tinkertoy exercise for scenario planning or first mover advantage.
- Entrepreneurship and innovation tool page. This is a listing of the resources that are tagged for entrepreneurship content.
Please help make the site more useful:
- Comment on tools you have used (adding tips, etc.)
- Submit new tools so the resource is always growing
- Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions
| Peter Klein |
Do bosses matter? Stephen Marglin famously argued that management doesn’t affect productivity, just the share of output appropriated by managers. (I’ll take David Landes instead, thank you very much.) Despite a huge management literature on bosses, economists have not quite known how to answer the question. Ed Lazear, Kathryn Shaw (ironically, a former boss of mine), and Christopher Stanton have an interesting new take on this using detailed microdata, showing substantial effects of supervisor on worker productivity:
The Value of Bosses
Edward P. Lazear, Kathryn L. Shaw, Christopher T. Stanton
NBER Working Paper No. 18317, August 2012
Do supervisors enhance productivity? Arguably, the most important relationship in the firm is between worker and supervisor. The supervisor may hire, fire, assign work, instruct, motivate and reward workers. Models of incentives and productivity build at least some subset of these functions in explicitly, but because of lack of data, little work exists that demonstrates the importance of bosses and the channels through which their productivity enhancing effects operate. As more data become available, it is possible to examine the effects of people and practices on productivity. Using a company-based data set on the productivity of technology-based services workers, supervisor effects are estimated and found to be large. Three findings stand out. First, the choice of boss matters. There is substantial variation in boss quality as measured by the effect on worker productivity. Replacing a boss who is in the lower 10% of boss quality with one who is in the upper 10% of boss quality increases a team’s total output by about the same amount as would adding one worker to a nine member team. Using a normalization, this implies that the average boss is about 1.75 times as productive as the average worker. Second, boss’s primary activity is teaching skills that persist. Third, efficient assignment allocates the better bosses to the better workers because good bosses increase the productivity of high quality workers by more than that of low quality workers.
NB: For some reason, my graduate students are circulating this piece from last week’s WSJ.
| Peter Klein |
Kudos to Anna Grandori for her edited volume, Handbook of Economic Organization: Integrating Economic and Organization Theory, currently making its way through the editorial process at Edward Elgar. Blurb:
The volume distinctively aims at integrating economic and organization theories for the explanation and design of economic organization. Economic organization is therefore intended both as an object of enquiry and as an emerging disciplinary field: not economics applied to organization as an object, but a forefront interdisciplinary field attracting researches and integrating insights from economics, organization theory, strategy and management, economic sociology, and cognitive psychology. The authors are distinguished scholars at their productive peak in those fields, sharing an in interest in an integrated and enlarged approach to economic organization. Each chapter not only addresses foundational issues and provides a state-of-art, but also offers original contributions and identifies key issues for future research.
Table of Contents is below the fold. You”ll find many of your favorite authors. (more…)
| Lasse Lien |
An important selling point for the consulting industry is that consultants can presumably help a firm identify and implement “best practice.” Surely the consulting industry is an important channel for disseminating knowledge of better ways of doing things, but identifying what constitutes best practice for a given firm in a given situation is no trivial task, and even if the best practice could be identified, transferring it will be a significant challenge.
This begs the question of whether there is a best practice for identification and transfer of best practices, and whether the consulting industry has identified and adopted such a practice. According to this paper Benjamin Wellstein and Alfred Kieser, the consulting industry in Germany is nowhere near a best practice for best practice. This goes for for both inter- and intra-industry transfer. I’ll bet my hat that this finding holds everywhere.
Well, I guess as long as the consulting industry keeps finding better practices for transferring better practices, we shouldn’t be too disappointed that there is no best practice for best practice. (HT: E.S. Knudsen)
| Peter Klein |
Looks like Scott Adams has been reading O&M!
| Peter Klein |
Bricolage — doing the best you can with the materials on hand, rather than choosing and end and getting the resources you need — is an important concept in the contemporary entrepreneurship literature. Garud and Karnøe’s influential 2003 paper on the Danish wind power industry helped bring bricolage into the mainstream, and it has important parallels with effectuation and other approaches to entrepreneurship that emphasize experimentation and incremental learning.
The University of Missouri’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures is hosting an interdisciplinary conference, 12-13 November 2012, on bricolage in art and entrepreneurship, focusing on the work of Ediciones Vigía, a unique artists’ collective that produces limited edition handmade books by Cuban and international authors and musicians. Participants will come not only from the humanities, education, and journalism, but also economics, management, and entrepreneurship. Among the featured speakers are Ivo Zander, who recently co-edited a book on Art Entrepeneurship, and Sharon Alvarez.
O&M readers interested in the relationship between business and the arts, the parallels between artistic creativity and entrepreneurial creativity, the economic organization of artist networks, and related issues should check it out. The full call for papers, along with related information, is below the fold.
| Nicolai Foss |
As readers of this blog will know, the dialogue between the firm capabilities literature and organizational economics has a long history in management research and economics. Co-blogger Dick Langlois has been an important contributor in this space. The forty years long discussion (dating it from George B. Richardson’s 1972 hint that his newly coined notion of capability is complementary to Coasian transaction cost analysis) has proceeded through several stages. Thus, the initial wave of capabilities theory (i.e., beginning to mid-1990s) was strongly critical of organizational economic. This gave way to a recognition that perhaps the two perspectives were complementary in a more additive manner. Thus, whereas capabilities theory provided insight in which assets firms need to access to compete successfully, organizational economics provide insight into how such access is contractually organized. However, increasingly work has stressed deeper relations of complementarity: Capabilities mechanisms are intertwined with the explanatory mechanisms identified by organizational economists.
In a paper, “The Organizational Economics of Organizational Capability and Heterogeneity: A Research Agenda,” that is forthcoming as the Introduction to a special issue of Organization Science on the the relation between capabilities and organizational economics ideas, Nick Argyres, Teppo Felin, Todd Zenger and I argue, however, that the discussion has been lopsided—hardly qualifying as a real debate—and that a reorientation is necessary.Specifically, the terms of the discussion have largely been defined by capabilities theorists. Part of the explanation for this dominance is that capability theorists have had a rhetorical advantage, because everyone seems to have accepted that organizational economics has very little to say about organizational heterogeneity. We argue that this rests on a misreading of organizational economics: while it is true that organizational economics was not (directly) designed to address and explain organizational heterogeneity, this does not imply that the theory is and must remain silent about such heterogeneity. In fact, we discuss a number of ways in which organizational economics is quite centrally focused on explaining organizational heterogeneity. Specifically, we argue that organizational economics provides guidance around how organizational design and boundaries facilitate the formation of knowledge, insight, and learning that are central to the heterogeneity of firms. We also demonstrate how efficient governance can itself be a source of competitive heterogeneity. We thus call on organizational economists to actively and vigorously enter the discussion, turning something closer to a monologue into real dialogue. (more…)
Nicolai was in town yesterday to deliver the 2012 Sherlock Hibbs Distinguished Lecture in Economics and Business, and he gave a terrific talk about “open entrepreneurship,” the application of concepts and principles from the open innovation literature to the discovery, evaluation, and exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities. Upon returning to my office after the lecture, I found a surprise waiting for me: the first hardcopies of our new book, Organizing Entrepreneurial Judgment: A New Approach to the Firm (Cambridge University Press, 2012). As both authors happened to be together, we preserved the moment for posterity.
A brief description and some endorsements are below the fold.
Update: O&M readers can order directly from Cambridge and receive a 20% discount! Use this link.
| Peter Klein |
An old post of Nicolai’s on journal impact factors is still attracting attention. Two recent comments are reproduced here so they don’t get buried in the comments.
There is an interesting paper by Joel Baum on this, “Free Riding on Power Laws: Questioning the Validity of the Impact Factor as a Measure of Research Quality in Organization Studies,” Organization 18(4) (2011): 449-66. He does a nice analysis of citations, and shows (what many of us suspected) that citations are highly skewed to a small subset of articles, so the idea of an impact factor which is based on a mean citation rate is erroneous. He concludes that “Impact Factor has little credibility as a proxy for the quality of eitehr organization studies journals of the articles they publish, resulting in attributions of journal or article quality that are incorrect as much or more than half the time. The clear implication is that we need to cease our reliances on such non-scientific, quantitative characterisation to evaluate the quality of our work.”
To which Ram Mudambi responds:
This analysis was already done in a paper we wrote in 2005, finally now published in Scientometrics.
We have the further and stronger result that in many years, the top 10 percent of papers in A- journals like Research Policy outperform the top 10 percent of papers in A journals like AMJ.
So it is the paper that matters, NOT the journal in which it was published. Evaluating scholars on the basis of where they have published is pretty meaningless. Some years ago, we had a senior job candidate with EIGHTEEN real “A” publications — it turned out he had only 118 total citations on Google scholar. So his work was pretty trivial, even though it appeared in top journals.
See also the good twin blog for further discussion.
| Peter Klein |
Brainstorming appears in many strategy, entrepreneurship, and leadership texts, often mentioned in passing with the implication that it’s a great tool for group decision-making. But the research literature suggests a more circumspect attitude. Indeed, this week’s New Yorker features an interesting and informative essay on some of the latest results:
The underlying assumption of brainstorming is that if people are scared of saying the wrong thing, they’ll end up saying nothing at all. The appeal of this idea is obvious: it’s always nice to be saturated in positive feedback. Typically, participants leave a brainstorming session proud of their contribution. The whiteboard has been filled with free associations. Brainstorming seems like an ideal technique, a feel-good way to boost productivity. But there is a problem with brainstorming. It doesn’t work.
Writer Jonah Lehrer goes on to quote Keith Sawyer: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.” Lots more at the source.
| Peter Klein |
O&M co-founder Nicolai Foss will give the 2012 Sherlock Hibbs Distinguished Lecture in Business and Economics Tuesday, 6 March 2012, 10:00-11:30am, in 205 Cornell Hall on the University of Missouri campus. The title is “Open Entrepreneurship: The Role of External Knowledge Sources for the Entrepreneurial Value Chain.” The lecture is sponsored by the Hibbs Professors of the University of Missouri’s Trulaske College of Business and the University of Missouri’s McQuinn Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (which I direct).
The full announcement (with Nicolai’s impressive bio) is below the fold. The lecture is free and open to the public, so all are welcome! (more…)
| Peter Klein |
This illusion [that correlation implies causality] has led people to make poor decisions about such things as what to eat (e.g., coffee, once bad,is now good for health), what medical procedures to use (e.g., the frequently recommended PSA test for prostate cancer has now been shown to be harmful), and what economic policies the government should adopt in recessions (e.g., trusting the government to be more efficient than the market).
Do not use regression to search for causal relationships. And do not try to predict by using variables that were not specified in the a priori analysis. Thus, avoid data mining, stepwise regression, and related methods.
| Nicolai Foss |
It is not yet online, but the University of Paris-Sorbonne is looking for a Full Professor in the Economics of Organization (see the ad text below). Importantly, proficiency in French is not a requirement … “upfront,” at least.
Very apropos (if I may) the Department of Strategic Management and Globalization will be hiring one assistant professor and three associate professors in ”strategic and international management” over the next few months. Proficiency in French, or Danish for that matter, is not required at all. The job ads are here. Or, contact me directly on email@example.com (more…)