Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 37 Number 2 2020 pp. 316-348

Decision Problems in Blockchain Governance: Old Wine in New Bottles or Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes?

Ziolkowski, Rafael, Miscione, Gianluca, and Schwabe, Gerhard


Blockchain comes with the promise of being a disruptive technology with the potential for novel ways of interaction in a wide range of applications. Following broader application, scholarly interest in the technology is growing, though an extensive analysis of blockchain applications from a governance perspective is lacking to date. This research pays special attention to the governance of blockchain systems and illustrates decision problems in 14 blockchain systems from four application domains. Based on academic literature, semi-structured interviews with representatives from those organizations, and content analysis of grey literature, common problems in blockchain governance have been singled out and contextualized. Studying their enactment revealed their relevance to major organizational theories in what we labelled “Patrolling the borders,” “External Legitimation,” “Reduction of Discretionality,” and “Temporal Management.” The identification of these problems enriches the scarce body of knowledge on the governance of blockchain systems, resulting in a better understanding of how blockchain governance links to existing concepts and how it is enacted in practice.

Key words and phrases: Blockchain governance, decision-making in blockchain systems, blockchain, distributed governance