Reinterpreting the demise of hierarchy: A case study in information technology, empowerment and incomplete contracts

Jonathan Wareham, Niels Bjørn-Andersen, Peter Neergaard

Producció científica: Article en revista indexadaArticleAvaluat per experts

10 Cites (Scopus)


This paper presents a case study of the implementation of a sophisticated internal performance monitoring system by the service division of a value-added reseller of Canon products in Denmark. This new control system could not only aid in controlling cost and productivity but could also monitor customer service and quality levels. Although the new system was implemented with exceptional technical success, it met a very defensive reception among the technicians. In response, management decided to initiate an empowerment programme. In order for this programme to have a significant impact, management needed to make the requisite shifts from a strictly hierarchical to a team-based organization form, as well as moving from a hierarchical to an interactive control process. It was only after the company completed this type of 'organizational realignment' that the real benefits of the system were harvested. This case study explores the implications of the dispersed and empowered organization and the consequent lack of direct process control. In order to fulfil this aim, the discussion is based on the Grossman, Hart and Moore theories of incomplete contracting and the role of 'information assets' and incentive misalignment of the newly 'empowered' and highly knowledge-based service organization. Although property rights theories have typically been applied in 'boundary of the firm' questions, the goal of this case study is to illustrate the potential of incomplete contract theory in explaining internal incentive structures and governance mechanisms in the emerging wave of organizations characterized by a rich knowledge base, geographical dispersion, or even 'loose' and virtual organization structures.

Idioma originalAnglès
Pàgines (de-a)257-272
Nombre de pàgines16
RevistaInformation Systems Journal
Estat de la publicacióPublicada - d’oct. 1998
Publicat externament


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