‘Why Managers Matter’ as Applied Organization (Design) Theory


Core organization design issues have emerged in recent popular and influential discussions of managers and organizations, specifically in a genre of writing—the “bossless company narrative”—that declares that the classic managerial hierarchy is dead. In this article, we review our critical discussion of this genre in our book, Why Managers Still Matter, arguing that the narrative manifests bad empiricism and half-baked organization theory. However, we also raise the possibility of a charitable reading of the genre: it points to themes in organization design theory that are currently underdeveloped, notably with respect to, for example, the impact of organizational structure and control on employee motivations and the importance of contingencies such as the characteristics of knowledge for organization design.