Chapter | The Network Challenge: Strategy, Profit, and Risk in an Interlinked World | 2009

Organizational Design: Balancing Search and Stability in Strategic Decision Making

by Jan Rivkin and Nicolaj Siggelkow

Abstract

Managers often must make decisions that depend on decisions in other parts of the organization. These interactions create a network of interdependent choices and make strategizing difficult. In this chapter, the authors explore the intersection between organizing and strategizing. Motivated by real examples that run contrary to conventional wisdom, the authors examine how firms organize themselves to strategize well. In particular, they examine "premature lock-in"—how a firm's strategizing efforts can become stuck in a web of conflicting constraints prematurely, before managers have explored a wide enough range of possibilities. A key role of organizing is to free strategizing efforts and encourage broad search. At the same time, organizing must ensure that strategizing efforts stabilize after the firm discovers an effective set of choices. Balancing search and stability, the authors argue, is a central challenge of organizing. They explore this challenge with an agent-based simulation that shows (1) how a change in organizational structure, for example, a shift from decentralization to integration, may reflect not a reversal of early mistakes but an effective sequence of organizing; and (2) why firms may benefit from unnecessary overlap between departments. They conclude that a period of decentralization and unnecessary overlap can be seen as organizational mechanisms to ensure the broad, early search that a firm needs in order to cope with interactions among strategic decisions.

Keywords: Decision Choices and Conditions; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Organizational Design; Strategy; Balance and Stability;

Citation:

Rivkin, Jan, and Nicolaj Siggelkow. "Organizational Design: Balancing Search and Stability in Strategic Decision Making." In The Network Challenge: Strategy, Profit, and Risk in an Interlinked World, edited by Paul R. Kleindorfer and Yoram Wind. Wharton School Publishing, 2009.