Discussion Paper of the Institute for Organisational Economics 9/2014

Arbeitsgruppen und ihre Bestimmungsgründe
Eine empirische Untersuchung im deutschen Maschinenbau

Harry Müller
September 2014



Working Groups and Their Determining Factors
An Empirical Study in the German Engineering Industry

In the German engineering industry, working groups are a popular form of factory organisation. Analysed from the perspective of transaction cost economics, working groups can be defined as an institution that helps to reduce intra-company transaction costs. By attributing decisional rights directly to a group of workers, they try to enhance both coordination and motivation compared to the traditional flow production. Following this theoretical approach, complexity, uncertainty and specificity can be derived as possible empirical determinants for the use of working groups as a form of company organisation.

The statistical influence of complexity, uncertainty and specificity is tested by using empirical data in the German engineering industry. It becomes clear that those factories producing complex products increasingly use working groups as a form of manufacturing organisation. Furthermore, the existential dependency of a firm on certain customer relationships can be seen as an indication of the specificity problem and therefore has got a positive statistical influence on the use of working groups. However, the presumed interdependency between uncertainty in the production process and the use of working groups gets supported only by weak empirical evidence.