What is the optimal form of firm organization during “bad times”? The greater turbulence following macro shocks may benefit decentralized firms because the value of local information increases (the “localist” view). On the other hand, the need to make tough decisions may favor centralized firms (the “centralist” view). Using two large micro datasets on decentralization in firms in ten OECD countries (WMS) and US establishments (MOPS administrative data), we find that firms that delegated more power from the Central Headquarters to local plant managers prior to the Great Recession out-performed their centralized counterparts in sectors that were hardest hit by the subsequent crisis (as measured by the exogenous component of export growth and product durability). Results based on measures of turbulence based on product churn and stock market volatility provide further support to the localist view. This conclusion is robust to alternative explanations such as managerial fears of bankruptcy and changing coordination costs. Although decentralization will be sub-optimal in many environments, it does appear to be beneficial for the average firm during bad times.
We develop a new method to measure CEO behavior in large samples via a survey that collects high-frequency, high-dimensional diary data and a machine learning algorithm that estimates behavioral types. Applying this method to 1,114 CEOs in six countries reveals two types: “leaders” who do multi-function, high-level meetings, and “managers” who do individual meetings with core functions. Firms that hire leaders perform better, and it takes three years for a new CEO to make a difference. Structural estimates indicate that productivity differentials are due to mismatches rather than leaders being better for all firms.
We investigate the link between hospital performance and managerial education by collecting a large database of management practices and skills in hospitals across nine countries. We find that hospitals that are closer to universities offering both medical education and business education have lower mortality rates from Acute Myocardial Infarction (heart attacks), better management practices and more MBA trained managers. This is true compared to the distance to universities that offer only business or medical education (or neither). We argue that supplying bundled medical and business education may be a channel through which universities improve management practices in local hospitals and raise clinical performance.
Internal communication has been a central theme in organizational economics, as employee collaboration provides insight into the structure of firms. Use of electronic communications data can be transformational for organizational economics, as these data provide a standardized way to measure organizational communication patterns and to determine the connection between these patterns and firm performance. We discuss the value of data that capture patterns of employee interactions, the benefits and risks associated with the use of electronic communication data (email and meetings) as empirical proxies for these collaboration patterns, and the research possibilities for studies across larger sets of firms.
We present evidence on the labor supply of CEOs, and on whether family and professional CEOs di↵er on this dimension. We do so through a new survey instrument that allows us to codify CEOs’ diaries in a detailed and comparable fashion, and to build a bottom-up measure of CEO labor supply. The comparison of 1,114 family and professional CEOs reveals that family CEOs work 9% fewer hours relative to professional CEOs. Hours worked are positively correlated with firm performance, and di↵erences between family and non-family CEOs account for approximately 18% of the performance gap between family and non-family firms. We investigate the sources of the di↵erences in CEO labor supply across governance types by exploiting firm and industry heterogeneity, and quasi-exogenous meteorological and sport events. The evidence suggests that family CEOs value–or can pursue–leisure activities relatively more than professional CEOs.
We examine methods used to survey firms on their management and organizational practices. We contrast the strengths and weaknesses of "open ended questions" (like the World Management Survey) with "closed questions" (like the MOPS). For this type of data, open ended questions give higher quality responses, but are more costly than closed question-based surveys.
Regulations curbing the entry of large retail stores have been introduced in many countries to protect independent retailers. Analyzing a planning reform launched in the United Kingdom in the 1990s, I show that independent retailers were actually harmed by the creation of entry barriers against large stores. This is because the entry barriers created the incentive for large retail chains to invest in smaller and more centrally located formats, which competed more directly with independents and accelerated their decline. Overall, these findings suggest that restricting the entry of large stores may exert negative competitive effects on independent retailers.
We combine unique administrative and survey data to study the match between firms and managers. The data include manager characteristics, firm characteristics, detailed measures of managerial practices, and outcomes for the firm and the manager. A parsimonious model of matching and incentives generates implications that we test with our data. We use the model to illustrate how risk aversion and talent determine how firms select and motivate managers. We show that empirical links between firm governance, incentives, and performance, which have so far been studied in isolation, can instead all be interpreted within our simple unified matching framework.
We collect data on management practices in over 1,800 high schools in eight countries. We show that higher management quality is strongly associated with better educational outcomes. The UK, Sweden, Canada and the US obtain the highest management scores, followed by Germany, with a gap before Italy, Brazil and India. We also show that autonomous government schools (government funded but with substantial independence like UK academies and US charters) have higher management scores than regular government or private schools. Almost half of the difference between the management scores of autonomous and regular government schools is accounted for principal leadership and governance.
Using an innovative survey measure of management practices on over 15,000 firms, we find private equity firms are better managed than government, family, and privately owned firms, and have similar management to publicly listed firms. This is true both in developed and developing countries. Looking at management practices in detail we find that private equity owned firms have strong people management practices (hiring, firing, pay, and promotions), but even stronger monitoring management practices (lean manufacturing, continuous improvement, and monitoring). Plant managers working in private equity owned firms also report greater autonomy from headquarters over sales, marketing, and new product introduction.
Guided by theories of “management by exception,” we study the impact of information and communication technology on worker and plant manager autonomy and span of control. The theory suggests that information technology is a decentralizing force, whereas communication technology is a centralizing force. Using a new data set of American and European manufacturing firms, we find indeed that better information technologies (enterprise resource planning (ERP) for plant managers and computer-assisted design/computer-assisted manufacturing for production workers) are associated with more autonomy and a wider span of control, whereas technologies that improve communication (like data intranets) decrease autonomy for workers and plant managers. Using instrumental variables (distance from ERP’s place of origin and heterogeneous telecommunication costs arising from regulation) strengthens our results.
Over the last decade the World Management Survey (WMS) has collected firm-level management practices data across multiple sectors and countries. We developed the survey to try to explain the large and persistent total factor productivity (TFP) differences across firms and countries. This review paper discusses what has been learned empirically and theoretically from the WMS and other recent work on management practices. Our preliminary results suggest that about a quarter of cross-country and within-country TFP gaps can be accounted for by management practices. Management seems to matter both qualitatively and quantitatively for performance at the level of the firm and the nation. Competition, governance, human capital, and informational frictions help account for the variation in management. We make some suggestions for both policy and future research.
For the last decade we have been using double-blind survey techniques and randomized sampling to construct management data on over 10,000 organizations across twenty countries. On average, we find that in manufacturing American, Japanese, and German firms are the best managed. Firms in developing countries, such as Brazil, China and India tend to be poorly managed. American retail firms and hospitals are also well managed by international standards, although American schools are worse managed than those in several other developed countries. We also find substantial variation in management practices across organizations in every country and every sector, mirroring the heterogeneity in the spread of performance in these sectors. One factor linked to this variation is ownership. Government, family, and founder owned firms are usually poorly managed, while multinational, dispersed shareholder and private-equity owned firms are typically well managed. Stronger product market competition and higher worker skills are associated with better management practices. Less regulated labor markets are associated with improvements in incentive management practices such as performance based promotion.
US productivity growth accelerated after 1995 ( unlike Europe's ), particularly in sectors that intensively use information technologies (IT). Using two new micro panel dataseis we show that US multina- tionals operating in Europe also experienced a "productivity mira- cle " US multinationals obtained higher productivity from IT than non-US multinationals, particularly in the same sectors responsible for the US productivity acceleration. Furthermore , establishments taken over by US multinationals ( but not by non-US multination- als) increased the productivity of their IT. Combining pan-European firm-level IT data with our management practices survey , we find that the US IT related productivity advantage is primarily due to its tougher " people management " practices.
We explore the effects of planning regulation on the UK retail sector between 1997 and 2003 using micro data from the UK census. We document a shift to smaller shops following a 1996 regulatory change that increased the costs of opening large stores. Our analysis suggests that total factor productivity (TFP) of multi-store retail chains fell after the introduction of the reform due to, the reduction in store size. Overall, the reduction in store size was associated with TFP of retail chains falling by 0.4% per annum, or 40% of the post-1995 slowdown in UK retail TFP growth.
We argue that social capital as proxied by trust increases aggregate prod- uctivity by affecting the organization of firms. To do this we collect new data on the decentralization of investment, hiring, production, and sales decisions from corporate headquarters to local plant managers in almost 4,000 firms in the United States, Europe, and Asia. We find that firms headquartered in high-trust regions are significantly more likely to decentralize. To help identify causal effects, we look within multinational firms and show that higher levels of bilateral trust between the multinational's country of origin and subsidiary's country of location increases decentralization, even after instrumenting trust using religious similarities between the countries. Finally, we show evidence suggesting that trust raises aggregate productivity by facilitating reallocation between firms and allowing more efficient firms to grow, as CEOs can decen-tralize more decisions.
We present a survey of recent contributions in empirical organizational economics, focusing on management practices and decentralization. Productivity dispersion between firms and countries has motivated the improved measurement of firm organization across industries and countries. There appears to be substantial variation in management practices and decentralization not only between countries, but also especially within countries. Much of the poorer average management quality in countries like Brazil and India seems to result from a long tail of poorly managed firms, which barely exist in the United States. Some stylized facts include the following: (a) Competition seems to foster improved management and decentralization; (b) larger firms, skill-intensive plants, and foreign multinationals appear better managed and are more decentralized; (c) firms that are both family owned and managed appear to have worse management and are more centralized; and (d) firms facing an environment of lighter labor market regulations and more human capital specialize relatively more in people management. There is evidence for complementarities between information and communication technology, decentralization, and management, but the relationship is complex, and identification of the productivity effects of organizational practices remains a challenge for future research.
There is a widespread sense that over the last two decades firms have been decentralizing decisions to employees further down the managerial hierarchy. Economists have developed a range of theories to account for delegation, but there is less empirical evidence, especially across countries. This has limited the ability to understand the phenomenon of decentralization. To address the empirical lacuna, we have developed a research program to measure the internal organization of firms—including their decentralization decisions—across a large range of industries and countries.
We use an innovative methodology to measure management practices in over 300 manufacturing firms in the UK. We then match this management data to production and energy usage information for establishments owned by these firms. We find that establishments in better managed firms are significantly less energy intensive. This effect is quantitatively substantial: going from the 25th to the 75th percentile of management practices is associated with a 17.4% reduction in energy intensity. Better managed firms are also significantly more productive. These results suggest that management practices that are associated with improved productivity are also linked to lower greenhouse gas emissions.