Barry M. Mitnick

University of Pittsburgh
Katz Graduate School of Business

Katz Graduate School of Business, 261 Mervis Hall
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA
15260 |  Visit Personal Website

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My research tends to focus on the ways in which individuals and organizations fail to act in the interests of others, and the means by which such agency relationships are structured in order to overcome or tolerate agency problems. About the same time (1973) that Stephen Ross developed the economic theory of agency, I independently originated the institutional theory of agency, including many of the standard arguments and terms of use common now in social science in uses of agency theory. Both Ross and I labeled the approach, "the theory of agency." My work has continued to develop theory and applications of this approach. A recent series of papers has focused on the theory of testaments, which examines some central aspects of the social processes that bind people together in organizations. In general, successful joint action or incorporation in organizational action requires that credible testaments, i.e., statements that produce belief that organizational performance will occur as it is claimed to occur, must accompany the credible commitments that provide rational support for such action. Another recent series of papers, coauthored with John F. Mahon, examines both the behavioral and the normative underpinnings of the management of reputation by firms, including the normative concept of reputational "bliss," i.e., reputational optimality. I also continue to have substantial research interests in the theory and behaviors of regulatory organizations, governance generally, including corporate governance, and business ethics. Finally, a recent series of papers in the public policy area focuses on what i call "wicked wicked problems" and "wicked walks."

Mitnick, Barry, Caitlin C. Corrigan, Claire L. Kaplan, Robert C. Ryan, and Katherine Yoon. 2016. "Wicked Wicked Problems, Walks, and the Flint Water Crisis," paper presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Assn., Philadelphia, PA.
Abstract: Extends and clarifies the classic construct of the "wicked problem" (Rittel and Webber 1973), adding moral guidance as a dimension. The paper describes a way of mapping wicked wicked problems which we call a "wicked wicked walk." We then map the walks for the two core actors in the Flint Water Crisis.
Mitnick, Barry M. and John F. Mahon. 2010. “Reputation Shifting.” Journal of Public Affairs 10 (4):280-299.
Mitnick, Barry M. and Robert C. Ryan. 2015 “On Making Meanings: Curators, Social Assembly, and Mashups.” Strategic Organization 13 (2):141-152.
Abstract: Argues that meaning-making processes and actors are under-studied in institutional theory. The article introduces, discusses, and/or extends the discussion of several concepts, including curator, social assembly, and social mashup.
Mitnick, Barry M. 2009. “Assurance and Reassurance: The Role of the Board." Robert W. Kolb and Donald Schwartz, eds. Corporate Boards: Managers of Risk, Sources of Risk 294-315. Wiley-Blackwell.
Mitnick, Barry M. 2011.“Capturing ‘Capture’: Definition and Mechanisms." David Levi-Faur, ed. Handbook on the Politics of Regulation 34-49. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.
Mahon, John F. and Barry M. Mitnick. 2007. “The Concept of Reputational Bliss.” Journal of Business Ethics 72 (4):323-333.
Mitnick, Barry. 2005. "Positive Agency." Robert Giacalone, Craig Dunn, and Carole L. Jurkiewicz, eds. Positive Psychology in Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

Substantive Focus:
Economic Policy SECONDARY
Governance PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation SECONDARY