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Towards an integrated concept of management efficiency.


After years of extensive analysis of behavioural-science oriented management theory (for an overview see e.g. Staehle 1991), an increasing turn towards economic thinking can nowadays again be observed, of which the new institutionalresp. organisational economy (e.g. Ordelheide, Rudolph and
Busselmann 1991, Williamson 1975) or the value-based management are
significant examples (e.g. Rappaport 1986, Reimann 1989).

The discussion about organisational effectiveness is not at all new. Nevertheless, the significance and the understanding of the relationships between management and success have changed:

* In the past, terms such as costs, cash-flow, ROI, earnings per share or productivity dominated the efficiency discussion. Today the emphasis is on pluralistic or multidimensional evaluation (Grabatin 1981, Quinn and Rohrbaugh 1983).

* For a long period specific factors (single steps and aspects of the managementprocess) were examined as to their efficiency (e.g. managing style), whereas today integral and interrelated views of the impact and causalities are becomingmore and more important (Witte 1987).

Since both developments are an expression of integral (synthetic) thinking, it is essential to develop an extensive framework of business management and to define the terms in an accordingly broad way.


The term (business) management can be interpreted in many different ways. Generally it is narrowly based on the relationship between superior and subordinate or on managerial roles. Very often particular problems are treated such as decision making about goals, strategies or market positioning.

Such interpretations can only solve problems partially. Business management, though, is always an institution-centered approach which has to consider the entire range of management problems. Phenomena like human interactions, management technique and policy are interdependent. In this view business management is control over multipersonal problem solving in the context of a productive social system called enterprise.


The basic function of an enterprise is to be successful in the competitive system of market economy. The enterprise is fundamentally compelled to be efficient or it fails. This is what Frese (1992, col. 1) means when he says: "From the business economic point of view, the fact that the success of an enterprise depends on the evaluation of the market transactions is of utmost significance. It becomes unavoidable that the dominant perspective of action resides in the orientation of all business activities towards market success, the permanent realisation of arbitrage profits".

The definition of the term efficiency has led to diverse discussions in literature. Confusion results from the two linguistically related terms effectiveness and efficiency. Whereas effectiveness can be interpreted as the efficient accomplishment of a task, efficiency is connected with the attainment of the economic goal, in the sense of an optimum ratio between cost and benefit.This distinction is based on the American differentiation by which efficiency isdefined as "doing things right" and effectiveness as "doing the right things". Nevertheless, many German management scholars (Frese 1988,
Grochla and Welge 1975, Staehle and Grabatin 1979 and others) do not make
the differentiation; they use the terms as synonyms. Also several American
authors such as Simon (1947) use the two words as identical terms and we

share this point of view. A firm's management efficiency therefore is understood as the contribution of management to reach the economic goal. We shall discuss this general definition further below.

Specific concepts of partial evaluation of efficiency

On the lapse of time, a great number of partial concepts explaining efficiency have developed in the context of management theory (for an overview see Scholz 1992). Some of them will be discussed here whereas we shall just touch on the various empirical analyses about this topic which try to define the success generating factors of excellent companies (e.g. Deal and Kennedy 1982, Mintzberg1982, Peters and Waterman 1982, Quinn and Rohrbaugh 1983, Ramanujam and Venkatraman 1987, Wunderer and Grunwald 1980).

The goal approach

The rational goal theory is based on the conscious setting and consequent pursuit of goals (Bluedorn 1980, Price 1972, Steers 1975, Van de Ven 1976). Froma vague superior efficiency goal (e.g. the ability to survive) subordinate goalsare derived like economic (e.g. shareholder value), social (e.g. work satisfaction) or general partial goals such as flexibility or the competence to learn. According to the choice of possible goals, causalities which
influence the goal achievement are developed. Rather diverse factors
determining this influence (determinants) are applied.

Thus for instance, if the goal setting concerns shareholder value, causalities will be expressed by the formula of the discounted cash-flow and determinants such as interest rates, revenues, expenses etc. will be defined. Further it can be presumed that "values drivers" based on these determinants can be influenced by the management, thus originating a chain of causalities between the measures taken by the management and the degree of goal achievement.

The system approach

The system theory considered from the managerial point of view defines the enterprise as a social system where controlling proceedings occur among others (Cameron 1986, Duncan 1973, Etzioni 1975, Parsons 1960, Yuchtman and Seashore 1967). The system is embedded in an environment with which it is compelled to tackle. Thus, relationships to the public become important.

With the AGIL scheme, Parsons stipulates four universal tasks of efficient systems, namely

* the integration with the environment (adaption)

* the setting and attaining of goals (goal-attainment)

* the integration and coordination of actions (integration)

* the preservation of the social structure (latency-resp. pattern maintenance). Considering these tasks, causalities can be developed including also managerial influencing factors. An example, concerning the first universal task (adaption),is the strategic planning as a managerial process focusing the
fit with the environment (market positioning). Efficiency thinking is
extended to the environment of the enterprise.

The social approach

The social theory is based on aspects of behavioural science (Kotter 1988, Kotter and Heskett 1992, Likert 1961, Mayo 1933, Neuberger 1976, Staehle 1991). Efficiency is measured according to social phenomena such as work satisfaction or group cohesion etc. The causalities and determinants originate likewise from the social field; motivation theory or the behavioural
discussion about management style are well-known examples. Thus,
empirical investigations have shown for instance that a cooperative

managerial style does not necessarily leadto higher efficiency but that it promotes job satisfaction, which affects indirectly the efficiency.

The interaction approach

The theory of interaction considers the enterprise in its relationship with the (internal and external) stakeholders (Grabatin 1981, Gross 1968, Pfeffer and

Salancik 1978, Reimann 1989, Staehle and Grabatin 1979, Thompson 1967).

To meet their demands and expectations is crucial for efficiency; the interactions between the enterprise and the stakeholders yield the causal relationships and the determinants. Examples are being the satisfaction of ecological standards asgiven by society (e.g. limits of emission) as well as the managerial measures suitable for influencing them. In this sense

American investigations have shown that companies with a environmental oriented behaviour are able to recruit more qualified employees on the labour market, which leads to an improvement of efficiency through better human resources. The decision approach

Decision research (Grun 1973, Hauschildt 1987, Kahle 1990, Witte 1980, 1987) makes a substantial contribution to the discussion about efficiency as decision making represents a fundamental element of each management situation.
A managerial decision-making process usually consists of a series of
partial decisions. Aside from considering efficiency integrally,

preliminary and partialdecisions can also be examined. In the context of the discussion about efficiency, the decision theory examines three principal factors: 1. Informational activity

The choice and input of problem-oriented information into the decision making process have an influence on efficiency.

2. Alternative problem solutions

Considering several alternatives before the decision is made guarantees a wider and thus more efficient process of decision making.

3. Overcoming barriers

Promoters (power promoters or specialized promoters) can contribute decisively to overcoming the barriers of not knowing or not wanting; they thus improve the efficiency.

In addition, questions about the effect of partially rational decisions and anomalous decisions on efficiency have arisen in recent times.

Economic approaches

With the so-called economisation of management theory, micro-economic theories are increasingly applied to questions of business management (Barney 1991, Osterloh 1988, Ouchi 1981, Rumelt 1984, Williamson 1991). The emphasis is on a new conception of efficiency, which does not only include the conventional financial ratios/indicators, but also deals with qualitative criteria. Likewise,the relationships between the enterprise and the environment under cost aspects are discussed.

The institutional economy (in the sense of the theory of the firm) is concerned with the economic analysis of the institutional frame of the enterprise as well as the analysis of its internal organisation. According to
the neoclassical theory, the institutional frame for the enterprise's
actions is built by the rights of disposal (property-rights) of all

individuals based on the principle of property as well as the division of these rights by mutual contract in accordance with the principle of contractual liberty. The transaction costs theory can found the formation and size of companies and it explains forms of cooperation; moreover, deductions can be made for efficientstructures and behavior. On the basis of the theory of rational choice, the coordination of interests can be explained using limitations, i.e. revenue and relative prices. The term "rational" choice is to express
that this theory claims to be an integral model of explaining and
structuring all aspects of social life.


From the point of view of an integral perspective of managerial efficiency, all these theories express particular aspects in regard to the criteria of efficiency, to the causalities and the determinants taken into consideration. Inpart these concepts have been empirically confirmed, in part they are based juston plausibility.

Integrated approaches

The fit approach

The fit approach supposes that many determinants exist (also in the management realm) whose effect on efficiency depends on their reciprocal accordance. Scholz(1987, 1992) has developed a concept of fit which includes
harmonisations between enterprise and environment (e.g.
strategy-environment-fit) as well as harmonisations inside the enterprise

(e.g. intrasystem-fit). The configuration approach

According to the configuration theory (Miller and Friesen 1984, Mintzberg 1979, 1983), only those patterns of system elements, based on harmony, consistency andfit, are capable to survive in the environment and are thus efficient. Mintzbergsays that the starting-points are the elements of a
configuration pattern (analogically to the brickstones of the Lego game)
and also those of the integrating picture (analogically to the puzzle).

For Mintzberg, it is importantfor efficiency in which pattern (configuration) the elements of the system "direction, efficiency, proficiency, concentration and innovation" are conceivedby the two forces "cooperation and competition". Review

Both the fit and the configuration approach can be considered as integral since they do not put up any substantial restrictions concerning the criteria
of efficiency, the causalities and the determinants. Nevertheless, they
are confined to the fit of characteristics of influencing factors as
universal determinant of efficiency. Thus, they become limited to a

meta-level. Main problems of evaluation of managerial efficiency

The evaluation of managerial efficiency is problematic in several ways. We shalldiscuss three problem areas:

1. The problem of choosing the evaluation criteria and interactions

As empirical investigations have shown, the factors influencing managerial efficiency can be numerous without being clearly and decisively fixed in the individual case. Moreover, there is a great variety of relevant evaluation criteria (see e.g. Lent, Aurbach and Levin 1971).

2. The problem of the abstraction level

Efficiency criteria such as capacity of survival or creation of social values often cannot be operationalised; sub-criteria must be formed. Through the creation of different levels of abstraction, hierarchies of efficiency can develop. However, this can cause problems as certain effects and interdependences cannot be recorded in this way.

3. The problem of measurability

The measuring of quantitative efficiency is easier than determining qualitative data which can only be represented by the aid of scales. Scaling
methods show the different dimensions which are qualitative sectors of a
social phenomenon depending on a certain problem view (Budaus and Dobler
1977, Cunningham 1977, Etzioni 1960, Kanter and Brinkerhoff 1981, Steers

1975). Concept of an extensive efficiency paradigm of management

The main principle of an extensive efficiency paradigm of management lies in thefacts that

* determinants and causalities originating from all the structuring dimensions of management are included interrelatedly (integral and not particular point of view),

* not only the causal effect of managerial efficiency is examined, but also the purpose (what is efficient?)

* criteria of efficiency from varying sources can be useful (multidimensional measuring of efficiency),

* efficiency is evaluated only with the aid of external relationships (interaction),

* both the enterprise and the environment are subject to continuous change, which modifies the determinants of managerial efficiency and possibly also the criteria of efficiency (dynamic aspect).

Determinants and causalities

In order to determine and organize the broad spectrum of possible managerial determinants of efficiency, a framework is needed. The fundamental significance of such frames for the perception of any object of investigation is also

recognized today by scientific theory. Anthony (1988, p. 3) writes: "In order tobe useful, information about any broad subject needs to be organized around a framework". A framing concept of this kind will be discussed in the following, initially for the enterprise's "internal world" and then for its environmental relationships.

Internal world

It is useful to consider the internal world of the enterprise (and its management) in order to perceive three different perspectives: strategy, structure and culture.

1. Using the metaphor of "strategy" the emphasis of enterprise analysis is on entrepreneurial activities in regard to their content and material substance. Focusing on management activities as special part of business activities, the managerial contents, i.e. the elements of business policies (goals, measures, resources) are involved. Therefore, by focusing on the strategy the dimensions of business policy making become evident. These dimensions determine efficiency:a better strategy leads to higher efficiency and vice versa. The quality of goals, measures and resources are thus determining efficiency.

In the past, literature (of management and firm efficiency) has presented several theories regarding the relationship between strategy and efficiency (Steinmann and Schreyogg 1993, Thomas 1986). The American theory of strategy emphasizes the SCP-paradigm. It postulates that the performance of an enterpriseis determined by the structure of its industry and the strategic conduct (Porter1991). This theory is challenged in today's literature by the
resource performance paradigm pointing out that the choice and the
development of core competences which are difficult to imitate are becoming
decisive factors of strategic efficiency (Prahalad and Hamel 1990).

Both paradigms connect the important contentual components of a strategy (of theenterprise) with efficiency. Yet, in these theories aspects of the structure andculture of an enterprise which shall be discussed now are lacking. 2. If the enterprise is considered under the metaphor of "structure", organizational design and procedures become visible. Looking again at the management of an enterprise as a part of the general activities of a firm, thesephenomena are elements that belong to the technique of management. The so-called"lens" of "structure" brings up dimensions of structuring such as the leadershipproblems (e.g. management and staff), directing processes (e.g.
planning and controlling processes) and managerial instruments (e.g.
budgets, project planning). The quality of these technical elements can
again influence management efficiency. Processes of controlling
(encouraging organisational learning) have a better impact on efficiency

than those leading to frustrating sanctions (Dalton 1980, Strategic Management Journal 1992). Within the scope of the new institutional economy and these structure-oriented theories, costs and benefit (and consequently efficiency) of different types of structures are analysed (Ordelheide, Rudolph and Busselmann 1991,
Williamson 1975). Rumelt examined numerous "basic architectures" of
enterprises and the consequences for their efficiency. He draws the

conclusion that diversification connected with core competences (interrelated diversification) showing a corresponding divisional structure of organization is more successful than otherforms of diversification and
structure (Rumelt 1986). Other research led by Mintzberg (1979, 1983)
revealed varied relationships between structure and efficiency. But all

these theories are again partial analyses. 3. The focal point of "culture" (corporate culture) finally shows the norms and values which are shared by the members of an enterprise. Focused again on management as part of the general activities of a firm, these are phenomena of the leadership domain and the interhuman relationships. Through the cultural lense important dimensions of shaping leadership problems appear (individual characteristics, relationships between superior and employee, influences of the social context).

The quality of leadership influences management efficiency: motivating relationships between superiors and employees increase the efficiency whereas repressive behavior demotivates.

Analyses about the efficiency of management styles have a long tradition (Staehle 1991). In addition, leadership-research is developing strongly at present and is dealing with causalities between the behaviour of a leader and the efficiency of his leadership (Kotter 1988). The general discussion about corporate culture is also concerned with efficiency problems. Large surveys of Kotter and Heskett (1992) have recently shown that the success of an enterprise is less determined by the type and strengths of its culture than by its ability to deal with general environmental dynamics. But again, just some selected

contextual factors are taken into consideration.

In the context of an integrated theory, our first step stipulates that the quality of strategy, structure and culture, considered singularly, are influencing the efficiency of management.

Yet, besides the mentioned qualities (strategy, structure, culture), efficiency also depends on their reciprocal fit. Leverage effects exist amongst these

elements, as well in a positive as in a negative sense.

That means e.g. that a specific structure that fits a strategy can promote its implementation and hencehighten its success. It seems evident that a strategy which aims at a consequentuse of standardizing, rationalizing and productivity potentials (in the sense ofPorter's "cost-leadership") demands a structure with straight hierarchies, centralized control mechanisms and an extensive network of rules. On the other hand those strategies, whose
accent lies on innovation and creativity and modifications
(differentiation strategies) require a less defined domain of activity,
less centralized hierarchies and rather vague regulations. These a

ccordances have been confirmed by a number of partially empirically, partially theoretical analyses (Gaitanides and Wicher 1986, Galbraith and Kazanjian 1986, Kieser 1984, Scholz 1992).

However, the term "fit" should not lead to the assumption that permanent correspondence of all variables necessarily guarantees the highest possible efficiency. On the contrary, a temporary misfit of certain variables can also bea stimulating factor. In their recent work about core competences, Hamel and Prahalad (1993) state that in the context of strategic management, a consciouslycreated misfit between an ambitious strategic intent and the existing resources produces a stretch situation and thus leads to a tense, innovative and thereforeefficient use of resources (leveraging).

Considering the internal world of the enterprise, we can speak about a strategy,structure, culture performance paradigm, i.e. a SSCP (partial)-paradigm(1): Environment

The main topic of the previous chapter was the causal relationship between management and efficiency in the context of the enterprise's internal world. Considering the interdependences between the enterprise and its environment (surroundings) we can say that (managerial) actions influencing the enterprise'sposition in the economic, societal and ecosystem can equally influence its efficiency. Thus, the interdependence between the environment and performance isgenerated, i.e. a partial EP paradigm (Freeman 1984, Sauter-Sachs 1992). It seems obvious that an enterprise must meet the demands of the market economy in general (system-fit) and specifically the requirements of the
markets relevant for the range of its activities (market-fit). If for
instance the requirements of the markets are not met, the enterprise will
fail since its performance is not estimated on the market-scene. We can
refer to the SCP-paradigm mentioned before where the fit to the
industry as one of the two variables of explanation of efficiency has a

significant status. Particularly inPorter's approach the analysis of industries as a method of determining the strategy is presented in depth; he also develops a framework of five competitiveforces which can be influenced by managerial activities (Porter 1980). Yet also contingency theories are aimed entirely at the following considerations: Environmental factors, as for example dynamism, complexity, technology and structure of competition have to be added to explain the (management) behaviour and finally to explain its efficiency (Kieser and Kubicek1983, Lawrence and Lorsch 1967).

Both the SCP-paradigm and the contingency theory point out more or less exclusively the relationship between the enterprise and the economic system.

Supposing a perfectly functioning societal system being able to convert all the demands on the enterprise completely and without delay into market
incentives and an economic system working perfectly (intensive competition),
it would be sufficient for the management to guarantee the fit with the
economic system. However, due to imperfection in the societal and economic

system, daily businessis confronted with situations where a firm's actions are not -- or not entirely -- controlled by economic incentives. In these fields,
an independent, non-economic adaptation by means of suitable
managerial actions needs to take place between the enterprise and society.
That means that the fit between the enterprise and society becomes a

particular problem for an efficiency-oriented management. The same arguments
are also valid for the ecosystem: as long as ecological requirements
cannot be controlled by an appropriate market system, independent
adaptations must be possible and become necessary. Thus, the fit with the

ecosystem will be an extremely important factor for a success-oriented m anagement (Connolly, Conlon and Deutsch 1980, Dyllick 1986, Meffert 1991, Perrings 1987, Sauter-Sachs 1992, Winter 1991).

As mentioned before, enterprise efficiency is determined analogically by both the quality of the relationships between enterprise and its environment and its perfect fit. In this sense for instance the quality of customer orientation and a perfect balance (relationship) between societal and customer orientation will determine the efficiency.

Integrated view

Considering the causal relationships between environment, internal world and performance, there results an EIP-paradigm concerning the relationship between the enterprise's management and its efficiency: managerial actions regarding theenvironmental field (part of the EP-paradigm) and the internal world (SSCP-paradigm) influence the enterprise's profit independently and also in their accordance.

The dynamic aspect of managerial efficiency

This paradigm is not meant to be static in the sense that quality and fit of thementioned influences of a determined situation affect success, rather it is joined by the following dynamic aspect: the environment and the internal world of an enterprise are in a process of continuous change varying in type and intensity. This fact leads to tensions (stretch) and thus also to changing quality requirements of the influencing factors and it also demands renewed adaptation.

Therefore the ability to change of qualities and fits is a self-evident part of the paradigm. This dynamic aspect requires two capacities:

1. Capacity for acting (Habermas 1981)

Action directed towards a goal attempts to reach efficiency, quality and fit notonly inside the enterprise but also with its environment. The communicative action needed for this aim is based on comprehension, i.e. the enterprise is looking for acceptance and the stakeholders express their interests. Normative action strives for rightness by trying to satisfy both the economic standards and the societal and ecological requirements.

2. Capacity for learning (Sattelberger 1991, Senge 1990, Reber 1992)

In order to meet ever-changing and new requirements, an enterprise must be capable of learning. In this context we use the term "organisational learning". "Organisational learning" attempts to support the capacity for solving problems and the ability to develop the capacity for learning itself (deutero learning). Organisational learning is not individual learning but learning in and of groupsinside social systems.

The spectrum of criteria for the evaluation of efficiency

Against this background we can now examine further the question which criteria enable us to measure resp. evaluate a successful management. If, as already hinted at, there exists a perfect societal and economic system, it would be sufficient to determine the efficiency of an enterprise exclusively along economic criteria. Imperfection in the firm's reality, however, show open fieldsof action to the enterprise which allow a singular economic striving for efficiency at the expense of society and nature (economic effects are being externalized). Since economic incentives are lacking, the behaviour of an enterprise in these sectors must be directed and judged according to independentsocietal and ecological criteria. On the basis of the (managerial) actions, added or decreased values arise which might affect the stakeholder groups in theeconomic, societal and ecosystem. The attempt to quantify the societal and the ecological performance is the product of these evaluations supplementing the economic efficiency (e.g. socio-respectively eco-ratings) (Gray 1992, Niemeyer and Sartorius 1992, Picot 1977, Schaltegger and Sturm 1990, Ullmann 1988). Difficulties arise from the diversity of criteria. Thus the evaluation of managerial efficiency depends essentially on the choice and the relative evaluation of the different categories of criteria. A general solution is impossible since it always depends on the assessment (interests) made by the evaluating person, authority or category of stakeholders (Freeman 1984, Janisch 1992, Mitroff 1983, Clarkson (forthcoming)).

Thus, in an integrated view, managerial efficiency of an enterprise means the creation of added value, or the avoidance of decreased value with regard to economic, societal and ecosystem. The EIP-paradigm therefore is at the base of the effective relation between the management and the success of an enterprise. It considers that quality and fit of the influencing factors determine the

efficiency in the inner and outer relationships.

The significance of an integrated view of managerial efficiency in theory and practice

From the point of view of management theory an integrated view of managerial efficiency can have several effects:

* Existing theoretical assessments can be positioned against the background of alarge framework and judged in their relativity. Thus it appears that the SCP-paradigm stressed in modern American literature at the moment covers only a restricted spectrum of influencing factors and causal relationships. It is oriented in a strongly one-dimensional way towards economic efficiency i.e. it neglects societal and environmental aspects.

* An integrated view of the facts opens up new perspectives which allow the development of new theories and empirical research. Today's literature shows clearly that parts of relationships between management and efficiency of an enterprise are considered important and that they have undergone remarkable empirical and theoretical investigations. This is valid for instance for the relationship between strategy and efficiency. However, other fields have received far less attention, e.g. the question of fit between enterprise and environment.

* An integrated view also shows that the relationships can only partially be quantified and therefore can hardly be empirically tested. A great number of relationships must be explained on the basis of qualitative and plausibility considerations.

The following main findings seem to be important for managerial practice:

* Since partial considerations in the practice of an enterprise are not satisfactory and operational practice must structure the management events integrally, an extensive framework makes it possible to understand the interrelated effects which have to be continuously considered. Through the consciousness of and the insight into the complexity of the problem, the managerial education and activities will be decisively marked and shaped. But most important is that the manager performs his duties in awareness of the necessity to contribute to efficiency.

* An integrated perspective (considering multiple networks) shows that a successful management must promote the quality of different elements according to the situation inside and outside the enterprise and also guarantee the fit. (For this purpose it is quite possible to use the phenomenon of stretch).

* An integrated view has a regulative function in practice. If specialists of consultants suggest an improvement of some operational field (for instance a neworganisation of top management) the manager is able to evaluate the status
of these suggestions (in the context of the whole situation) as well as the
need for fit with different requirements of other operational fields. He can
then estimate possible impacts on efficiency.

* Finally, the manager should realize that for the efficiency-oriented organization of management he can actually depend on sound partial analyses but that there is no integrated and empirically proved theory. He cannot avoid discretionary judgments. Therefore it is essential to meet the relevant stakeholders in a dialogue in order to give the necessary soundness and legitimation to these judgments.


1 Following the American terminology, we shall keep using the term "paradigm" for the basic relationship between the efficiency shaping factors although it isbeing used in a more fundamental sense in German-speaking scientific theoreticalliterature.


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Prof. Dr. Edwin Ruhli, Professor of Business Administration and Dr. Sybille Sauter-Sachs, Chief Assistant, both Institute of Management Research (Institut fur betriebswirtschaftliche Forschung), University of Zurich, Switzerland.
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Author:Ruhli, Edwin; Sauter-Sachs, Sybille
Publication:Management International Review
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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