We contrast two archetypal modes of research in principal-agency theory and in public administration: an aggregated mode which regards the agency as a unified whole, and a disaggregated mode attending to individuals. We argue for the virtues of the latter approach in that mechanisms are clear, verifiable, and specific. The aggregated approach may also be clear, at the cost of submerging internal conflicts while yielding powerful understandings of the cumulative performance of the agency. The challenge to those of us who advocate the individual, behavioral approach is to identify how to accumulate dyadic performance into larger structures of agency itself.
Brehm, John & Scott Gates (2015) Bureaucratic Politics Arising from, Not Defined by, a Principal-Agency Dyad, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 25 (1): 27–42.