Corporate Autonomy and Institutional Control

Corporate Autonomy and Institutional Control: The Crown Corporation as a Problem in Organization Design

DOUGLAS F. STEVENS
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 240
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt81c4d
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  • Book Info
    Corporate Autonomy and Institutional Control
    Book Description:

    Stevens examines institutional frameworks for Crown corporations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba between the early 1970s and the mid 1980s, showing how each framework establishes different practices and offers distinct strategic advantages. Organizational approaches in Alberta most closely approximated what the author calls a "self-contained" design, in which corporate actors had the advantage and were most able to achieve their own objectives. In Manitoba, where "vertical information systems" prevailed, central bureaucratic monitoring agents tended, to some extent, to wield influence over the corporations. Saskatchewan practice was akin to a "lateral relations" pattern, with an equilibrium between corporate and bureaucratic goals.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6333-9
    Subjects: Management & Organizational Behavior

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Chapter One The Autonomy and Control Problem: Normative Perspectives
    (pp. 3-32)

    The question of balance is a critical issue when studying Crown corporations in Canada. How can Crown corporations achieve some sort of balance between the amount of autonomy they require to achieve their objectives as instruments of public policy, and the amount of institutional control required by governments both as providers of direction and evaluators of the performance of Crown corporations? This issue is of interest because it raises basic questions concerning the design of the decision-making relationship between the government and Crown corporations that is, the traditional basis upon which this relationship is structured and the alternative ways of...

  5. Chapter Two A Positive Perspective: The Game Analogy
    (pp. 33-52)

    Because Crown corporations have the same organizational form as their private-sector counterparts, it is tempting to think that theories and models developed to explain organizational structures and decision making in private-sector corporations can be applied to public-sector corporations. However, to apply such theories and models uncritically is to overlook the fact that members of private- and public-sector organizations behave and make decisions according to different incentives systems and structures. We need to ask how decisions areactuallymade in and around Crown corporations, not how they “ought” according to corporate organizational theory to be made. Crowncorporation decision makers will not...

  6. Chapter Three Alberta: The Self-contained Design
    (pp. 53-83)

    Any analysis of information-processing and decision-making practices linking Crown corporations in Alberta to the Alberta government is complicated by the contradictions of an administrative environment characterized by an incipient “hostility toward public ownership.”¹ Not unexpected in “a community where property rights and a hatred of socialism are virtually a secular religion,”² this sentiment helps explain why successive Alberta governments were reticent to claim credit for the creation or proliferation of Crown corporations. Such reticence, however, did not preclude the formation of a Crown-corporation sector comparable in magnitude to that in Manitoba or Saskatchewan. Many of these companies were formed during...

  7. Chapter Four Manitoba: The Vertical Information Systems Design
    (pp. 84-114)

    Information-processing and decision-making practices linking Crown corporations in Manitoba to the Manitoba government evolved within an administrative environment whose inhabitants viewed the Crowncorporation instrument with profound ambivalence. Attracted, for the most part, by the presumed economic development potential of the Crown-corporation instrument, Manitoba politicians repeatedly committed themselves to “using public investment as a means of sparking economic activity and private investment.”¹ But the dismal economic performance of Manitoba's commercial Crown corporations and the history of ineptitude and corruption in their management and operation was enough to test the commitment of any government to the use of the instrument.

    The response...

  8. Chapter Five Saskatchewan: The Lateral Relations Design
    (pp. 115-151)

    In Saskatchewan, information-processing and decision-making practices linking Crown corporations to the Saskatchewan government evolved within a “holding-company” approach to the organization and direction of these corporations. A central Crown corporation first the Government Finance Office (GFO) (1947-78), then the Crown Investments Corporation (cic) (1978-83), later the Crown Management Board (CMB) served as the government’s “corporate head office” for its Crown corporations. Practices associated with this instrument, like the stature of the holding company itself, varied somewhat with the political philosophy of the government in power, particularly, in terms of how the politicians viewed the purposes of government and the role...

  9. Chapter Six Origins and Consequences of Crown-Corporation Organization Designs
    (pp. 152-179)

    In the provincial chapters, we sought to establish a particular historical context within which to examine how different Crown-corporation organization designs gave rise to different outcomes in the balancing of corporate autonomy and institutional control. But by focusing on our prime analytical task to demonstrate how these designs resulted in different balancing outcomes we may have created the impression that such designs were “independent variables,” rather than creatures of context. This was not our intent. Our Crown-corporation organization designs might be a potent explanator of behaviour and balancing outcomes within the internal political economy of the Crown-corporation decision-making process. But,...

  10. Chapter Seven Corporate Autonomy and Institutional Control: In the provincial chapters, we sought to establish a particular historical context within which to examine how different Crown-corporation organization designs gave rise to different outcomes in the balancing of corporate autonomy and institutional control. But by focusing on our prime analytical task—to demonstrate how these designs resulted in different balancing outcomes—we may have created the impression that such designs were "independent variables," rather than creatures of context. This was not our intent. Our Crown-corporation organization designs might be a potent explanator of behaviour and balancing outcomes within the internal political economy of the Crown-corporation decision-making process. But, for those who consider this to be an overly narrow focus, their reaction might almost be: So what? This chapter is directed at those who are more interested in the context of the analysis than the analysis itself. That is, how did basic factors within the external political economy give rise to the particular features of each Crown-corporation organization design? Why were there differ
    (pp. 180-186)

    There is no comprehensive, perfectly objective solution to the Crown corporation as a problem in organization design. There are simply competing analogies. A private-sector corporate analogy—such as the M-form comparison advanced by the Economic Council of Canada—asks us to imagine that “a corporation is a corporation” and to approach the problem in terms of a full range of analytical criteria. Such criteria would have to articulate, in normative economic terms, what is meant by “flexibility of decision making” by Crown corporations; the “effective monitoring and control” of Crown-corporation performance by the government; and, of course, the “optimal balancing”...

  11. Appendix 1 Alberta Crown Corporations (31 March 1986)
    (pp. 187-192)
  12. Appendix 2 Manitoba Crown Corporations (31 March 1986)
    (pp. 193-196)
  13. Appendix 3 Saskatchewan Crown Corporations (31 March 1986)
    (pp. 197-202)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 203-212)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 213-218)
  16. Index
    (pp. 219-233)