Scandinavian Working Papers in Business Administration

SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Business Administration,
Stockholm School of Economics

No 5: The effects of increasing turbulence on organizational control: some reflections

Lars A. Samuelson
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Lars A. Samuelson: Dept. of Business Administration, Stockholm School of Economics, Postal: P.O. Box 6501, SE-113 83 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: The following question is addressed in this paper: what will be the impact of an increase in the uncertainty and turbulence facing organizations on the way control is carried out? First, a survey of research in organizational control will be presented. After that the principle nature of control in a relatively certain and a relatively uncertain situation will be explored. Then it is pointed out that a change in control when the situation is considered to be turbulent should not be made unless a comprehensive analysis of the situation has been undertaken. Next, the factors constituting an uncertain situation will be explored. After that the adaptation of controls to a more turbulent and uncertain world will be discussed. Many trends in the current debate and practice on control in organizations seem to be naturally explained according to the perspective chosen in the paper. The importance of studying the interplay between the various means of control is stressed as opposed to the dominating focus on one or two means of control in mainstream research. The paper itself is mainly of the survey type. Results from a couple of recent empirical studies in Sweden undertaken by the author have been utilized.

Keywords: Control; organizational structure; turbulence; uncertainty

21 pages, First version: December 2, 1998. Revised: August 16, 1999. Earlier revisions: December 8, 1998.

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