Almost Random Careers: The Wisconsin School Superintendency, 1940-1972

March, James C.; March, James G.
September 1977
Administrative Science Quarterly;Sep77, Vol. 22 Issue 3, p377
Academic Journal
A chief executive job is a pairing of an individual and an organization. A career within a system of chief executive jobs consists in a series of such pairings involving a single individual. This paper considers one system of careers, Wisconsin school superintendents from 1940 through 1972, and examines the extent to which statistical characteristics of that system are consistent with a simple Markov model that assumes both individuals and jobs to be indistinguishable and careers at that level to be essentially random. The results indicate that the system is nearly, but not entirely, random. Deviations from randomness appear to be due primarily not to differences among the individuals involved, but to differences among the jobs (districts) and to nonstationarity in exit rates over the duration of a job. These results are discussed in terms of their implications for understanding the consequences of control systems for organizations. It is suggested that there are some reasons for anticipating that careers in top management in many social systems would tend to be nearly random events involving nearly indistinguishable managers.


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