To get an intuitive sense of Wernerfelt's argument, suppose that a business needs a worker for a specific service. (For example, an apartment building has to have a bannister fixed.) The main emphasis of the paper is on two aspects of the situation:
- Which experiences should the ideal worker have, and
- How should the parties agree on compensation?
Wernerfelt's paper is Employment, Markets, Contracts, and the Scope of the Firm and the abstract reads:
We look at the economic functions of firms, contracts, and markets and characterize the optimal scope of the firm. Governance structures appear as equilibria and are compared in terms of production costs - determined by a tradeoff between standardization and adaptation - and adjustment costs – sometimes incurred when prices have to be agreed upon. Under weak conditions, employment, markets, or sequential contracting weakly dominate all other equilibria. As firms become larger, they lose their focus and gains from standardization decrease, ultimately bounding their scope. The model does not rest on non-standard assumptions and is consistent with the managerial literature on the scope of the firm. Its predictions depend on several factors that do not play a role in other contemporary theories of organization.