Chapter 5 Economics of Organization
For many years, the field of microeconomics focused primarily on the relationship between firms and the outside environment of consumers, suppliers, competitors, and regulators. Internally, it was assumed that a firm was able to measure the costs associated with any pattern of exchanges with the outside environment in order to determine the best production and marketing decisions. However, the conduct of the actual processes involved in production was not regarded as an issue of economics in itself. Rather, these matters were treated as issues of organizational behavior and organizational design to best assign, coordinate, and motivate employees, much like a military unit.
In recent decades, economists have applied and developed economic principles that inform a better understanding of activity inside the firm. One focus in this newer endeavor is the firm’s decisions on which goods and services they will provide. A related topic of interest to economists is how much of the production activity will be done by the firm and how much will be purchased from other firms or contracted out to other businesses.
When a business elects to provide a large number of goods and services or has complex, multistage production operations, operations must be assigned to departments or divisions and the firm faces challenges in coordinating these units. Although organizational psychologists have addressed these issues for many years, economics has been able to provide some new insights.
Another issue in the design of a firm is motivation of units and individuals. In analyses based on organizational behavior, individuals are regarded as having psychological needs and the challenge to the organization is how to design procedures to meet those needs so that employees better support the needs of the organization. The new perspective from economics views an employee as an independent agent whose primary objective is to maximize his own welfare and the challenge to the organization is to structure incentives in a manner that aligns the economic interests of the firm with economic interests of the employee.