Economics Meets Sociology in Strategic Management: Volume 17

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Table of contents

(36 chapters)

This paper outlines a theory of the multiproduct firm. Important building blocks include excess capacity and its creation, market imperfections, and the peculiarities of organizational knowledge, including its fungible and taut character. A framework is adopted in which profit seeking firms are seen to diversify in order to avoid the high transactions costs associated with using various markets to trade the services of various specialized assets. Neoclassical explanations of the multiproduct firm are shown to be seriously deficient.

The multidivisional form is the favored form of organization for the large firms that dominate the American economy. This study takes up the causes of the dissemination of that form among large firms from 1919 to 1979. Five theories are initially proposed as possible explanations for the changes observed and these theories are operationalized and tested. The model that seems most consistent with the data emphasizes the ability of key actors to alter structure under three circumstances: when the firm has a product-related or -unrelated strategy (which is consistent with Chandler's, 1962 theorizing); when the corporate presidents have a background in sales or finance; and when other firms in the industry alter their structures. The implications of these results for theories of organizational change are discussed with special reference to the importance of conceiving how actors operate with varying rationalities in this process.

Current research offers alternative explanations to the “linkage” between the pattern of diversification and performance. At least four streams of research can be identified. None of these can be considered to be a reliable, predictive theory of successful diversification. They are, at best, partial explanations. The purpose of this paper is to propose an additional “linkage,” conceptual at this stage, that might help our understanding of the crucial connection between diversity and performance. The conceptual argument is intented as a “supplement” to the current lines of research, rather than as an alternative explanation.

What makes organizations so similar? We contend that the engine of rationalization and bureaucratization has moved from the competitive marketplace to the state and the professions. Once a set of organizations emerges as a field, a paradox arises: rational actors make their organizations increasingly similar as they try to change them. We describe three isomorphic processes-coercive, mimetic, and normative—leading to this outcome. We then specify hypotheses about the impact of resource centralization and dependency, goal ambiguity and technical uncertainty, and professionalization and structuration on isomorphic change. Finally, we suggest implications for theories of organizations and social change.

Understanding sources of sustained competitive advantage has become a major area of research in strategic management. Building on the assumptions that strategic resources are heterogeneously distributed across firms and that these differences are stable over time, this article examines the link between firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Four empirical indicators of the potential of firm resources to generate sustained competitive advantage-value, rareness, imitability, and substitutability are discussed. The model is applied by analyzing the potential of several firm resources for generating sustained competitive advantages. The article concludes by examining implications of this firm resource model of sustained competitive advantage for other business disciplines.

The general topic of this chapter is the relation of the society outside organizations to the internal life of organizations. Part of the specific topics have to do with the effect of society on organizations, and part of them concern the effects of organizational variables on the surrounding social environment. I intend to interpret the term “social structure” in the title in a very general sense, to include groups, institutions, laws, population characteristics, and sets of social relations that form the environment of the organization. That is, I interpret “social structure” to mean any variables which are stable characteristics of the society outside the organization. By an “organization” I mean a set of stable social relations deliberately created, with the explicit intention of continuously accomplishing some specific goals or purposes. These goals or purposes are generally functions performed for some larger structure. For example, armies have the goal of winning possible military engagements. The fulfillment of this goal is a function performed for the larger political structure, which has functional requirements of defense and conquest. I exclude from organizations many types of groups which have multiple purposes (or which perform multiple functions for larger systems, whether these are anyone's purposes or not), such as families, geographical communities, ethnic groups, or total societies. 1 also exclude social arrangements built up on the spur of the moment to achieve some specific short-run purpose. For instance, I will not consider a campaign committee for some political candidate as an “organization,” although a political party would definitely meet the criterion of continuous functioning and relatively specific purposes.

There has been considerable recent work in industrial organization emphasizing the importance of group stratification within industries. The thrust of this literature is that in empirical work, and in particular in investigating public policy problems, differences across firms within an industry may be crucial. This paper is intended as a contribution to the empirical literature of group structures. In this paper, I examine patterns of strategic group membership in a number of industries, and analyze changes in the strategies used by firms. In particular, I provide a series of rather simple exploratory tests of the importance of intraindustry strategic differences in a number of industries.

Production markets have two sides: producers are a fully connected clique transacting with buyers as a separate but aggregated clique. Each producer is a distinctive firm with a distinctive product. Each side continually monitors reactions of the other through the medium of a joint social construction, the schedule of terms of trade. Each producer is guided in choice of volume by the tangible outcomes of other producers—not by speculation on hypothetical reactions of buyers to its actions. Each producer acts purely on self-interest based on observed actions of all others, summarized through a feedback process. The summary is the terms-of-trade schedule, which reduces to constant price only in limiting cases. The market emerges as a structure of roles with a differentiated niche for each firm. Explicit formulae—both for firms and for market aggregates—are obtained by comparative-statics methods for one family of assumptions about cost structures and about buyers' evaluations of differentiated products. Not just any set of firms can sustain terms of trade with any set of buyers. There prove to be three main kinds of markets, and three sorts of market failure, within a parameter space that is specified in detail. One sort of market (PARADOX) has a Madison Avenue flavor, another is more conventional (GRIND), and a third (CROWDED) is a new form not included in any existing theory of markets. Current American industrial markets are drawn on for 20 illustrations, of which three are presented in some detail. Inequality in firms' market shares (measured by Gini coefficients) is discussed.

Cover of Economics Meets Sociology in Strategic Management
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Advances in Strategic Management
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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