The inevitability and irreversibility of organizational uncontrollability

Hugh van der Mandele, Arjen van Witteloostuijn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this paper, a classic and seminal contribution of Williamson (J Polit Econ 75:123–138, 1967), “Hierarchical control and optimum firm size”, is revisited so as to remove two of its restrictive assumptions. The introduction of the dynamics of the quality of vertical communication into Williamson’s static model and the development of a simulation to analyze these dynamics provide the opportunity to demonstrate the plausibility of a new conjecture: in each and every hierarchically structured organization, irreversible organizational uncontrollability is ultimately bound to arise, even in a completely stable environment. This is our main contribution. Moreover, we demonstrate that this conjecture is also valid for non-hierarchically structured organizations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-405
Number of pages26
JournalComputational and Mathematical Organization Theory
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Control loss
  • Organizational failure
  • Serial reproduction
  • Simulation
  • Stochastic logistic equation
  • Uncontrollability


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