Entries in organizational culture (33)


Solving yesterday's solutions: A history of management theory

The idea that management practices can be studied, with lessons learned and distilled into theories, has been with us for decades. Short vignettes such as A Message For Garcia by Elbert Hubbard (1899) and The Go Getter by Peter B. Kyne (1921) have extolled employee virtues, and Alfred P. Sloan's "Organizational Study" memo to GM (1920) is considered a foundational work of corporate management theory.

Of course the business environment changes over time, with corresponding shifts in the theories of what management practices work best -- often based on the (reported) recipes used by the success stories of the day. It would be useful to chart these theories and their changes over time in order to ask: Are there consistencies across eras? Can we observe, and perhaps predict, cycles of in best practices? Do certain practices have a "shelf life," beyond which we can expect them to become obsolete?

We enjoyed Nicholas Lemann's recent piece in the New Yorker,When G.M. Was Google” precisely because he takes this long view and

addresses these questions. Among the changes Lemann notes is the decline in the social vision of the corporation, as well as the shift from viewing “bureaucracy” as a solution to attacking it as a problem.  Indeed, on the later point he notes:

What managers consider a problem is typically what their predecessor considered a solution.”

He also finds enduring similarities in the recipes for success over time, notably an attention to consumer/user needs, and corporate cultures that don’t just foster innovation inside the company—they attract the brightest and most innovative minds from outside and draw them in.

Image source: The New Yorker

--Clara Shen


Social captital key to success in workplace: data analyst

An expert in network analysis and human capital states that social capital now trumps other skills in today's workspace.  Valdis Krebs, founder of Orgnet LLC, says that workers must distinquish themselves by their ability to connect, mix, and resolve data and content.

The new competitive advantage is social context – how internal and external content/information is interpreted, combined, made sense of, and converted to new products and services via diverse inputs, opinions, viewpoints, and know-how.

Krebs sees social capital stemming from the personal and professional networks of employees, and he defines social captigtal as the ability to find, utilize and combine the diverse skills, knowledge and experience of others, inside and outside an organization.

--Clara Shen


Why companies need a higher purpose, and navigating the cultural elements of change.

We enjoyed two articles in the latest MIT Sloan Management Review for their attention to topics that are central to two Catalyst labs, PiA Metrics and Organizational Culture.

The first of these concerns the question of finding a purpose beyond profit, and presents one view of how to make money by doing good things.

The second takes an in-depth look at how executives can successfully launch change initiatives by mapping the emotional and political landscape to identify the key stakeholders who will be affected by the change and the key influencers within each stakeholder group.

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