3 from the latest ASQ

60th Anniversary Essay: How Journals Could Improve Research Practices in Social Science” by William H. Starbuck, Administrative Science Quarterly 2016; 61:165-183.

Task Segregation as a Mechanism for Within-job Inequality: Women and Men of the Transportation Security Administration” by Curtis K. Chan and Michel Anteby, Administrative Science Quarterly 2016; 61:184-216.

Status-Aspirational Pricing: The ‘Chivas Regal’ Strategy in U.S. Higher Education, 2006-2012” by Noah Askin and Matthew S. Bothner, Administrative Science Quarterly 2016; 61:217-253.

When organizations fail

From a book review by Karl Weick in a recent ASQ:

But what’s missing are cases that show how learning is sustained during crises and how lessons learned after a crisis actually make a difference later. The problem with enumerating breakdowns is that it’s not obvious what drives them (e.g., stress, sensemaking, habit, perception, overload, decision making), nor is it obvious that breakdowns in learning trump everything else. Resilience is tested in novel environments, as the author says. And learning before and during novel events can promote adaptation in the face of novelty. The solutions by which people can build organizational learning seem to boil down to the creation of independent “Red Teams” that scrutinize previous breakdowns, try to cut through denials, and expose finer details of what really happened and how to prevent a recurrence. Such efforts can promote learning, but variations of this approach, in the form of after-action reviews, have been used for some time, and the associated learning can be situation-specific.

We ignore learning in organizations to our peril – especially because so many public organizations are “knowledge organizations” (full of expert professionals), and also because they frequently fail.

We tend to over-analyze the successes (which are rare) and under-analyze failures.

Competition works, sometimes

In a new paper in Economica, Leonardo Felli and Kevin Roberts show:

In an environment in which heterogeneous buyers and sellers undertake ex ante investments, the presence of market competition for matches provides incentives for investment but may leave inefficiencies, namely hold‐up and coordination problems. This paper shows, using an explicitly non‐cooperative model, that when matching is assortative and investments precede market competition, buyers’ investments are constrained efficient while sellers marginally underinvest with respect to what would be constrained efficient. However, the overall extent of this inefficiency may be large. Multiple equilibria may arise; one equilibrium is characterized by efficient matches, but there can be additional equilibria with coordination failures.

This is why the debate about “contracting out” will never go away. We are destined to see multiple equilibria – sometimes competition works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Performance indicators are not just indicators of performance

From Katja Freisteina, in a recent paper in the Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis,

Diffusing their knowledge and enhancing the potency of their ideas, international organisations like the World Bank employ indicators and other instruments that seem objective and easily accessible in any given context. Beyond producing certain kinds of knowledge and governance effects in the global sphere, the creation of new indicators can be understood as a social practice by international organisations that ensures their competence and mandate to act, for instance against poverty. Drawing on indicator research, Focauldian governmentality studies and neo-institutionalism, the article studies and compares several key examples of poverty indicators used by the World Bank to identify the effects of employing indicators on international organisations.

Leadership is “under-theorized”

Says an oped in Governing:

Despite this significant universe, leadership best practices specific to the public sector are under-theorized and under-represented.

Either we need more work on leadership in public sector organizations or to make that work more accessible to practitioners. Given the preponderance of OB-flavored work in PA (as opposed to OT-based work), I’d bet the latter.

Or maybe PA just needs more theory.

Employee Satisfaction in Agencies with Merit-Based Pay: Differential Effects for Three Measures

Now on SSRN, a new paper, written with Sungjoo Choi:

While many studies have examined the association between merit-based pay and organizational performance, few have assessed the psychological well-being of employees in agencies with such financial incentive schemes. We show that employees in agencies with merit-based pay are less satisfied with their organization than those in agencies that do not implement the incentive systems. We also show that this negative effect is larger in the case of organizational satisfaction than for pay satisfaction or employee satisfaction with the job itself.

“A Conceptual Framework for Analysis of Goal Ambiguity in Public Organizations”

Recommended. New from Hal Rainey and Chan Su Jung, now available on JPART Advance Access. The abstract:

Prominent authors have claimed that government organizations have high levels of goal ambiguity, but these claims have needed clarification and verification. We discuss the complexities of organizational goals and their analysis, and review many authors’ observations about public agencies’ goal ambiguity and its good and bad effects. Then, we propose a conceptual framework to organize and make explicit the observations, as a set of interrelated propositions about relations among concepts that influence organizational goal ambiguity and that are influenced by it. Then, to verify or falsify these propositions, one needs to define and measure organizational goal ambiguity and other concepts in the framework. We describe research that has done so and that supports propositions in the framework, with emphasis on research that has analyzed organizational goal ambiguity using measures of three dimensions of goal ambiguity. We describe research using these dimensions, as well as other studies and translate these findings into additional propositions that extend the conceptual framework.