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Governing Project-based Firms: Promoting Market-like Processes within Hierarchies

  • Design
  • Economics


This article takes an empirical point of departure in an in-depth study of an R&D organization that was transformed into a strongly project-based organization. As demonstrated in the analysis, its mode of governance differed radically from traditional bureaucratic and cultural conceptions of governance. Instead the new “rules-of-the-game” introduced amounted to creating an institutional framework, promoting new individual responsibilities and enabling lower level market-like processes of self-organizing discovery. The specific set-up used, included anew organization structure, new responsibilities, etc and the use of “prices”, playing a role both in shaping incentives and guiding knowledge work. The interpretation put forward relies on combining economic theories of governance with more “fine-grained” organization theories, and suggests that there is some discretion for top managers to engage in the design of a market-promoting mode of governance for their project-based firms. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

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