Combining Formal Controls to Improve Firm Performance



Formal controls are an essential part of organizational design, and are theorized to positively influence organizational performance. Mello and Hunt ([2009] Transportation Journal, 48:20–39) were the first to suggest using formal controls to influence truck drivers' behavior. Extending the salesperson control literature, they documented an underresearched method of formal control that we term technology control, whereby firms use on-board and communications technology to influence drivers. We build on their work by investigating the contingent effects of formal controls that influence the behavior of truck drivers and thereby influence the operational performance of firms in the U.S. motor carrier industry. Our work integrates the monitoring aspect of agency theory with the theory of operant conditioning and the theory of psychological reactance to develop a rationale for hypothesized contingent effects of formal controls on motor carriers' operational performance. We collected primary data pertaining to the controls used to influence truck drivers' behavior from a large sample of U.S. motor carrier firms. The results of our analyses using nonlinear structural equation modeling suggest a complex set of relationships between formal controls and operational performance. Our results shed light on scenarios where using technology to monitor driver behavior can result in positive and/or negative organizational outcomes.