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Incentives and Coordination in Hierarchies
The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics (2007)
  • Dilip Mookherjee, Boston University
  • Stefan Reichelstein

The internal organization of large firms as well as procurement and regulation contexts frequently involve a hierarchical nexus of contracts, with substantial delegation of decision making across layers. Such hierarchical delegation of decision making creates problems of aligning incentives of vertically related agents, and coordinating the actions of different branches of the hierarchy. In a principal-agent setting with private information, it is shown that under certain assumptions (top-down contracting, observability of subcontracting outcomes, absence of limited liability constraints) the hierarchy can implement second-best allocations. Incentive problems are overcome via compensations that are linear in a measure of performance of the concerned department, defined as the difference between a measure of imputed revenues and procurement costs. The coordination problem is overcome by conditioning output targets and payments on cost reports submitted by other branches; despite this, agents' strategies are dominant with respect to the behavior of members of other branches. The result provides conditions for the lack of a `control loss' from hierarchical decentralization of decision making, owing to incentive or coordination problems.

  • hierarchies,
  • networks,
  • organization theory,
  • profit centers,
  • incentives,
  • coordination,
  • control loss
Publication Date
February, 2007
Citation Information
Dilip Mookherjee and Stefan Reichelstein. "Incentives and Coordination in Hierarchies" The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics Vol. 1 Iss. 1 (2007)
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