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In: Business and Management

Submitted By Custorio
Words 6678
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Organization as machine – this imagery from our industrial past continues to cast a long shadow over the way we think about management today. It isn’t the only deeply-held and rarely examined notion that affects how organizations are run. Managers still assume that stability is the normal state of affairs and change is the unusual state (a point I particularly challenge in The End of Competitive Advantage). Organizations still emphasize exploitation of existing advantages, driving a short-term orientation that many bemoan. (Short-term thinking has been charged with no less than a chronic decline in innovation capability by Clayton Christensen who termed it “the Capitalist’s Dilemma.”) Corporations continue to focus too narrowly on shareholders, with terrible consequences – even at great companies like IBM.But even as these old ideas remain in use (and indeed, are still taught), management as it is practiced by the most thoughtful executives evolves. Building on ideas from my colleague Ian MacMillan, I’d propose that we’ve seen three “ages” of management since the industrial revolution, with each putting the emphasis on a different theme: execution, expertise, and empathy.Prior to the industrial revolution, of course, there wasn’t much “management” at all – meaning, anyone other than the owner of an enterprise handling tasks such as coordination, planning, controlling, rewarding, and resource allocation. Beyond a few kinds of organization – the church, the military, a smattering of large trading, construction, and agricultural endeavors (many unfortunately based on slave labor) – little existed that we would recognize as managerial practice. Only glimmers of what was to come showed up in the work of thinkers such as Adam Smith, with his insight that the division of labor would increase productivity.With the rise of the industrial revolution, that changed. Along with…...

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