Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2014

The Effect of Management Control Elements on Coordination

by Sara Bormann, Jan Bouwens and Christian Hofmann


This study examines how control elements of a firm affect coordination among profit centers. The firm operates a network of 59 profit centers. It uses a transfer-pricing system designed to account for interdependencies between profit centers and to induce coordination. Further, profit center managers are incentivized with own-level residual income measures. The use of the latter measure would lead managers to make decisions benefiting their performance irrespective of whether these decisions negatively affect other profit centers. However, the firm implemented a third system that would potentially lead managers to benefit other profit centers. The firm established regional clusters of profit centers that meet at least once every quarter. The creation of these clusters creates proximity as profit centers perform complementary activities, making it more beneficial for them to coordinate. Our findings suggest that self-centered choices by profit centers are mitigated as proximity within a cluster increases. Additionally, we find evidence that proximity is positively associated with coordination and overall performance.

Keywords: Business or Company Management; Organizational Structure; Performance;


Bormann, Sara, Jan Bouwens, and Christian Hofmann. "The Effect of Management Control Elements on Coordination." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-092, March 2014.