Lean enough: Institutional logics of best practice and managerial satisficing in American manufacturing
journal contributionposted on 24.11.2017, 14:24 by Matt Vidal
Rational choice theory has been widely criticized for its unrealistic assumptions that individuals have perfect information and computer-like information processing capability, which are used to maximize utility. Sociological institutionalism and the behavioral theory of the firm have developed complementary alternatives. I combine the two into a single model of information processing. Institutional logics are central to top-down (schema-driven) processes that focus attention and guide action. Satisficing—settling for good enough based on a given aspiration level—is critical to bottomup (feedback-driven) information processing. Here I show that two practices associated with the postfordist logic of the capitalist firm—lean production and worker empowerment—are deeply institutionalized as best practice in the American manufacturing field. Based on interviews with 109 individuals in 31 firms, I demonstrate how moderate aspiration levels and conceptual schemas associated with formerly dominant fordist institutional logics both function to limit the adoption of best practice.
The research for this paper was made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, with further support provided by the UW Center on Wisconsin Strategy (COWS) and the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE).
- Loughborough University London