The garbage can model and organizational metrics

Michael Sauder, Hyunsik Chun, Wendy Espeland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Organizational metrics - including rankings, ratings, and other forms of public assessment - are inextricably tied to uncertainty. Metrics are not only responses to uncertainty in the organizational environment, but they also create new forms of uncertainty within the organizations they evaluate. Given this, it is productive to consider these metrics in relation to the garbage can model of organizational decision making, a framework that was designed to provide insight into uncertain and ambiguous contexts. In this paper, the authors use the case of patient experience surveys to argue for the value of this model for understanding responses to metrics in particular conditions. Specifically, the authors demonstrate how the different features of the garbage can model manifest themselves within organizations managing numbers, and the authors then use these findings to discuss the measurement conditions that promote garbage can responses, the distinctive types of unintended consequences these responses might produce, and the implications of the garbage can model for the understanding of metrics more generally.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationResearch in the Sociology of Organizations
PublisherEmerald Group Holdings Ltd.
Number of pages23
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NameResearch in the Sociology of Organizations
ISSN (Print)0733-558X


  • Garbage can model
  • Health measures
  • Organizational metrics
  • Organizational uncertainty
  • Quantification
  • Rankings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


Dive into the research topics of 'The garbage can model and organizational metrics'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this