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an organizational context have remained underdeveloped. Evans and Harris (2004)
critique these studies with the argument that, in practice, there are often gradations
in discretions that have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. However, to evalu-
ate such case-by-case discretions, some form of conceptual basis that acknowledges
the existence and the variety of discretions within an organization is required.
Although discretions refer to personal judgments, they differ at the respective
levels at which staff work. Such personal judgments are not entirely personal but can
relate both to the environment (through the links that individual actors may have to
hierarchical networks and representative networks) and to resource limitations and
opportunities. Thus, discretions are actions of individual staff members that rely on
a personal appraisal of what is appropriate, given the socio-organizational circum-
stances and preferences of that particular staff member. Discretions, as a result, are a
kind of regulatory agency, which result in a change in organizational behavior and/
or structure and possible a change in the stability of cooperative arrangements with
g e oIC T.
Several authors identify the specific reasons why individual staff discretions
exist or emerge. Moe (1984) argues that discretions in bureaucratic organizations
arise because of the different interests in the interaction between those who manage
and those who execute. As individual staff members operate in a context of both
internal working relation and external networks of peers, the role of context on
discretions is considered important for how discretions may arise. Finkelstein and
Hambrick (1990) expand on three sets of factors that determine the variation in
discretions of individual actors:
1. Organizational environment
2. Available resources
3. Ability to envision alternatives
The first factor concerns the degree to which the environment in which actors
operate allows the actors variety and change in their daily work. In most cases,
many regulations and resource limitations exist, which prevent actors from deriving
any personal discretion. However, most actors are also aware of the space “granted”
by the environment. Hay and Wincott (1998) refer to the existence of cognitive
filters within actors. Cognitive filters are “the perceptions [of actors] about what
is feasible, legitimate, possible and desirable in the institutional environment in
which they find themselves and existing policy paradigms and worldviews” (Hay &
Wincott, 1998). It is through such cognitive filters that actors exercise certain dis-
cretions. The discretions are in line with the degree of freedom that actors perceive
to have within their environment.
The second factor concerns the degree to which the organization is amenable to
an array of possible actions and empowers the executive to formulate and execute
those actions. Andersson, Lindgren, and Henfridsson (2008) claim that it is not the
technological solutions themselves or the enforcement of technological solutions
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