Formal and Real Authority in Organizations

Philippe Aghion and Jean Tirole
Journal of Political Economy
Vol. 105, No. 1 (Feb., 1997), pp. 1-29
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Formal and Real Authority in Organizations


This paper develops a theory of the allocation of formal authority (the right to decide) and real authority (the effective control over decisions) within organizations, and it illustrates how a formally integrated structure can accommodate various degrees of "real" integration. Real authority is determined by the structure of information, which in turn depends on the allocation of formal authority. An increase in an agent's real authority promotes initiative but results in a loss of control for the principal. After spelling out (some of) the main determinants of the delegation of formal authority within organizations, the paper examines a number of factors that increase the subordinates' real authority in a formally integrated structure: overload, lenient rules, urgency of decision, reputation, performance measurement, and multiplicity of superiors. Finally, the amount of communication in an organization is shown to depend on the allocation of formal authority.

Notes and References

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    Chandler (1962)
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    This reference contains 2 citations:
    • Williamson [1975
    • 1985
  • 14
    Jennergren (1981)
  • 16
    Jennergren 1981
  • 27
    Ringleb and Wiggins 1990
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