Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2013

Delegation in Multi-Establishment Firms: Evidence from I.T. Purchasing

by Kristina McElheran


Recent contributions to a growing theory literature have focused on the tradeoff between adaptation and coordination in determining delegation within firms. Empirical evidence, however, is limited. Using establishment-level data on decision rights over information technology investments, I find that a high net value of adaptation is strongly associated with delegation, as are local information advantages and firm-wide diversification; in contrast, a high net value of within-firm coordination is correlated with centralization. Variation across establishments within firms is widespread: most firms are neither fully centralized nor fully decentralized. Delegation patterns are largely consistent with standard team-theory predictions; however, certain findings, such as a negative correlation between delegation and firm size, call for a consideration of agency costs, as well.

Keywords: Business Units; Business Headquarters; Decision Choices and Conditions; Operations; Organizational Design; Organizational Structure; Power and Influence; Adaptation; Cooperation;


McElheran, Kristina. "Delegation in Multi-Establishment Firms: Evidence from I.T. Purchasing." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 11-101, April 2011. (Revised April 2012, July 2012, January 2013.)