How well do managers know the capabilities of the firms they manage? Such knowledge, which we refer to as managerial meta-knowledge, has not been systematically addressed in the management and governance literature—which is problematic, as managerial meta-knowledge influences governance choice. In fact, transaction cost economics, the dominant theory of governance choice in management research, assumes that managers perfectly know the capabilities of their firms. However, micro-level research streams on resource cognition and transactive memory, as well as the knowledge-based view of strategy, suggest that this assumption is not in general warranted: Managers’ meta-knowledge is in general imperfect. We therefore examine the implications of imperfect managerial meta-knowledge for governance choice. The key mechanism we highlight is that imperfect managerial meta-knowledge leads to surprises and frictions in contractual relationships, negatively influences the ability to engage in coordinated adaptation, and is a driver of ex post transaction costs. For these reasons, managerial meta-knowledge holds implications for governance choices, which we summarize in four propositions.
- Interorganizational coordination
- Knowledge management
- Managerial cognition
- Resource-based view
- Transaction cost economics