The Dominant Coalition
Who determines organizational goals? Cyert and March (1963) propose that
they are largely set by a negotiation process among members of dominant
coalitions pursuing certain interests. Each coalition seeks allies, engages
in "horse trading", builds alliances, etc. Each negotiated agreement
provides guidance and constraint on the organization. "..goals themselves
are complex preference statements that summarize the multiple conditions
any acceptable choice must satisfy" (Scott p. 288). The concept of
dominant coalition is useful because it grants that both individuals and
groups have influence (though not equal) over organizational actions, though
often no one group has complete control. Some conflicting interests can
be resolved through negotiation, some cannot. Finally, the dominant coalition
also changes over time.
One problem with this view is that it is somewhat aggregative -- individuals
and groups are allowed to possess interests, but organizations are not.
It has a "bottom up" focus that isn't very useful to some perspectives
and borders on psychological reductionism. It also seems likely that the
corporation as a whole can instil interests in specific individuals and
groups, particularily toward ensuring organizational survival.
Factors Affecting the Dominant Coalition
There are many potential sources of power in modern organizations (Scott
p. 291). Ownership is the most social and legally definsible right, though
owners often delegate control to managers who are expected to serve as their
agents (though they often develop their own power bases as owners become
dependent on their expertise). Labor as a collective also can wield power
in organizations through union activitiy, strikes, slowdowns, etc. But organized
labor in the US has declined from 36% in 1945 to 17% in 1990 (Lipset, 1986).
Individuals and groups that interface with important resource suppliers,
regulatory agencies also gain extensive power within organizations.
Hickson et al (1971) propose three general propositions
about power based on Emerson's basic definition (1962):
* subunits that actively cope more effectively with uncertainty (breakdowns,
issues, etc.) are more likely to acquire power. Note that technology improvements
often reduce uncertainty in operations, futher removing power from operations
into other areas (Goldner, 1970).
* the "lower the substitutability of the activities of the subunit,
the greater its power" (Hickson, 1971).
* the centrality of the subunit affect power, particularily in two aspects.
Pervasiveness is the the degree that workflows of a particular subunit connect
with other units. Immediacy is the "speed and severity" with which
the workflows of a particular subunit affect the final outputs of the organization.
The higher the centrality, the greater the power.
Hickson et al's study of 28 departments in 7 organizations supported these
propositions. The order of importance was coping with uncertainty, immediacy,
nonsubstituability, and pervasiveness.