Management Theory and Occam's razor: How public organizations buffer the environment

Kenneth J. Meier, Laurence J. O'Toole, Jr.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Because organizations are open systems, environmental forces can both benefit the organization and cause it harm. The empirical theory of O'Toole and Meier suggests buffering is related to organizational performance in nonlinear ways by interacting with environmental forces, managerial networking, and organizational structures. This article examines the organization's history to generate an estimate of environmental buffering and then incorporates this measure to study buffering in a more contemporary data set. The authors find buffering is related to a variety of performance indicators and has an especially strong influence on performance in regard to a more disadvantaged clientele. The article then assesses the functional form of the buffering relationship and the potential interaction with other variables. Although the logic of Occam's razor implies that the simple linear relationship best fits the data, significant research needs to be done on other measures of buffering and other data sets before definitive conclusions can be drawn.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)931-958
Number of pages28
JournalAdministration & society
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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