Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2010

Accountability and Control as Catalysts for Strategic Exploration and Exploitation: Field Study Results

by Robert L. Simons

Abstract

This paper reports the collective finding from 102 field studies that look at the relationship between two organization design variables: span of control and span of accountability. Clustering the data yields propositions suggesting that the relationship between these variables may be an important determinant of strategic exploitation and exploration activities. Data from the field studies suggest that, in accordance with the controllability principle, accountability and control are tightly aligned for exploitation activities. However, this result was found in only a small number of tasks and functions. In the majority of situations, spans of accountability were wider than spans of control. This "Entrepreneurial Gap" is posited to be a result of management's desire for innovation and exploration-and used as a catalyst for changing strategy, creating high levels of customer satisfaction, or motivating people to navigate complex matrix organizations.

Keywords: Customer Satisfaction; Corporate Accountability; Governance Controls; Innovation and Management; Organizational Design; Strategy;

Citation:

Simons, Robert L. "Accountability and Control as Catalysts for Strategic Exploration and Exploitation: Field Study Results." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 10-051, January 2010.