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Incentive Contracts in Projects with Unforeseeable Uncertainty

Abstract : Designing incentive contracts that constructively guide employee efforts is a particularly difficult challenge in novel innovation initiatives, where unforeseen events may occur. Empirical studies have observed a variety of incentive structures in innovation settings: "time and material contracts" (compensation for executing orders), "downside protection" (target-driven incentives with protection from unexpected risks), and "upside rewards" (additional remuneration for pursuing opportunities). This paper develops a model of incentives in presence of unforeseen events and offers a theoretical prediction of which of the empirically observed incentive structures should be used under which circumstances. The combination of three key influences drives the shape of the best incentive contract. First, the presence of unforeseeable uncertainty, or the occurrence of events that cannot possibly be foreseen at the outset. These may force a change in the project's plan, making pure target setting insufficient. Second, fairness concerns dictate that the employee's expected compensation cannot be shifted downward by unforeseen events, because it would cause demotivation, hostility, and defection. Third, management may not be able to observe the detailed actions of the employee (moral hazard) nor whether a positive or negative unforeseen event has occurred (asymmetric information).
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Contributor : Antoine Haldemann Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Friday, March 19, 2010 - 11:11:15 AM
Last modification on : Saturday, June 25, 2022 - 10:50:39 AM

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Svenja C. Sommer, Cristoph H. Loch. Incentive Contracts in Projects with Unforeseeable Uncertainty. Production and Operations Management, 2009, Vol.18,n°2, pp.185-196. ⟨10.1111/j.1937-5956.2009.01015.x⟩. ⟨hal-00465165⟩



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