A configurational theory of control


Book Section

© Cambridge University Press 2010. Organization theory scholars have long acknowledged that control processes are integral to the way in which organizations function (Blau and Scott,1962; Etzioni, 1965; Tannenbaum, 1962). While control theory research spans many decades and draws on several rich traditions (Dunbar and Statler, Chapter 2), several theoretical problems have kept it from generating reasonably consistent and interpretable empirical findings and from reaching consensus concerning the nature of key relationships. As new forms of organizational relations (networks, alliances, mass customization, supply chains, consortia, contract employees, telecommuting, virtual teams, etc.) emerged in the late twentieth century, traditional organizational control theories were viewed as less and less relevant by organizational scholars. As a result, attention to organizational control research waned, with the exception of critical theorists (e.g., Adler, 2007; Tsoukas, 2007) and accounting researchers (e.g., Davilia and Foster, 2007; Whitley, 1999). For example, despite the importance of the topic and the pervasiveness of the control phenomenon in organizations, organizational control research has not been sufficiently cumulative. The control literature is rich, but deceptive. Although most organizational scholars might be shocked by our assertion, we observe that there is very little empirical work on control in the organizational literature relative to other classic and fundamental organizational phenomena (e.g., design-effectiveness, planning-performance, diversification-performance relationships). From a distance, it may appear as though there is a great deal of empirical work and that there is broad support for the few dominant control theories (e.g., Merchant, 1985; Ouchi 1977, 1979).

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Cardinal, LB; Sitkin, SB; Long, CP

Published Date

  • January 1, 2010

Book Title

  • Organizational control

Start / End Page

  • 51 - 79

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780521517447

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/CBO9780511777899.004

Citation Source

  • Scopus