Red tape and task delays in public and private organizations

Barry Bozeman, Patrick Scott, Pamela N. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Using a measure of red tape based on the amount of time required for the performance of core organizational tasks, hypotheses are tested as to why some organizations have more red tape than others. Among the explanations considered are organizational size, sector, “publicness” defined in terms of governmental interaction and influence independent of sector, and external constraint defined in terms of interorganizational agreements and percentage of time devoted to external activities. The data for the study come from a national study of more than 900 research-intensive organizations. The focus on these organizations assures that the core tasks performed are similar to one another and reduces the likelihood that findings are simply a function of differences in organizational mission. Results indicate that it is useful to think of red tape in terms of diverse dimensions related to key organizational tasks. Both sector and publicness are positively associated with measures of red tape, with publicness providing a somewhat more robust explanation along some dimensions of red tape. Contrary to previous studies, organizational size seems to have little bearing on differences in red tape.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-322
Number of pages33
JournalAdministration and Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Marketing
  • Public Administration


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