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Nanomanagement: superior control and subordinate autonomy in conflict: mid-level officers of the U.S. and British armies in Iraq (2003-2008)

Sowers, Thomas S. (2011) Nanomanagement: superior control and subordinate autonomy in conflict: mid-level officers of the U.S. and British armies in Iraq (2003-2008). PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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On battlefields and within organizations, a fog obscures subordinate activity from superior observation, producing an information asymmetry endemic to most superior-subordinate relationships. A superior’s ability to observe, to peer through this fog, distinguishes different types of organizations, largely determining what tasks an organization may accomplish and how superior control is balanced against subordinate autonomy (James Wilson, 2000). Yet modern technology is lifting this fog, with each day increasing the detail and depth of what superiors may observe. This thesis explores superior control with modern technology, by introducing and assessing a new term, nanomanagement—where superiors use technology to control, in ever-increasing detail, the actions of all of their subordinates. Through interviewing mid-level officers of the U.S. and British armies, who served in Iraq between 2003 and 2008, this qualitative study explores two questions. “Why nanomanagement?” seeks to understand the causes, or what may motivate nanomanagement. “How does nanomanagement influence superior control and subordinate autonomy?” seeks to understand the effects of nanomanagement. This thesis employs five factors—organizational culture, ex ante controls, ex post controls, hierarchical control and exogenous factors—as different theoretical frameworks to understand nanomanagement. Trackers, drones and long screwdrivers, modern variants of police patrols that reduce transaction costs and may reverse information asymmetry, are introduced. This thesis also suggests three terms to describe when nanomanaging superiors take action undermining traditional hierarchical control: shifting (focusing attention on subordinate levels), drifting (acting at subordinate levels), and grifting (cheating the hierarchy by controlling actions at levels beneath their immediate subordinates). These actions signal a new form of hierarchical control by exclusion—ex claudere control. By analyzing a case where much of the fog separating superior from subordinate thinned and lifted, this thesis assesses and updates the long fought battle between superior control and subordinate autonomy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Thomas S. Sowers
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Supervisor: Lodge, Martin

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