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The Necessary Nature of Future Firms
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The Necessary Nature of Future Firms
Attributes of Survivors in a Changing World

  • George P. Huber - The University of Texas at Austin, USA, School of Geography, University Oxford Centre for the Environment


February 2004 | 328 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Firms - like all living systems - must be congruent with, aligned with, compatible with their environments, or they will not survive. Among the features examined in depth are practices and structural arrangements that enable firms to more rapidly and effectively: sense and interpret threats and opportunities; get decisions made; acquire and manage knowledge; innovate; and change - while simultaneously dealing with the needs for efficiency, flexibility, and employee commitment.
 
Chapter 1 Dangerous Deficiencies
WHAT IS HAPPENING? WHAT IS NOT?

 
THE ROLE OF TOP MANAGEMENT

 
ABOUT THIS BOOK

 
 
Chapter 2 The Future Environments of Business Organizations
SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE AND IMPROVED TECHNOLOGY

 
Scientific Knowledge

 
Improved Technologies

 
Mental Blocks to Imagining a Different World on the Same Planet

 
Interim Summary and Transition

 
THE COMPLEXITY OF FUTURE ENVIRONMENTS

 
Environmental Variety

 
Environmental Density and Interdependence

 
Interim Summary and Transition

 
ENVIRONMENTAL DYNAMISM AND COMPETITIVENESS

 
Velocity, Turbulence, and Instability

 
Environmental Competitiveness

 
 
Chapter 3 Sensing and Interpreting the Environment
FACIT AB

 
IMPORTANCE OF ENVIRONMENTAL SENSING AND INTERPRETATION

 
Consequences and Importance of Interpretation

 
ENVIRONMENTAL SENSING IN FUTURE FIRMS

 
Intelligence Gathering

 
Intelligence Gathering As a Staff Function? As an Outsourced Function?

 
Intelligence Gathering As Specialized Accountability

 
Intelligence Gathering As Eclectic Responsibility

 
Supporting Sensors

 
Probing the Environment

 
Sensing Early Responses to the Firm's Actions and Products

 
Top Managers As Environmental Sensors

 
INTERPRETING WHAT IS SENSED

 
Declines in Quality and Timeliness of Organizational Interpretations

 
Enhancing Interpretation in Future Firms

 
Faulty Interpretations

 
 
Chapter 4 Organizational Decision Making
DECISIONS AND DECISION MAKING RESOURCE IN FUTURE FIRMS

 
Increasing Environmental Dynamism and Its Consequences

 
Increasing Environmental Complexity and Its Consequences

 
Increasing Competitiveness and Its Consequences

 
Decision Maker Capabilities: Past, Present, Future

 
DECISION MAKING PRACTICES IN FUTURE FIRMS

 
Ensuring Scope

 
Ensuring Speed

 
Effects of Forthcoming Information Technologies on Decision Speed and Scope

 
IT Investments Focused on Analysis

 
IT Investments Focused on Communication

 
TEMPTING PRACTICES

 
Intuitive Decision Making

 
Satisfying and Analogizing

 
Firms' Responses to Personal Propensities to Use Short-cut Methods

 
 
Chapter 5 Knowledge Acquisition: Organizational Learning
LEARNING, KNOWLEDGE, AND INNOVATION

 
ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING: A PRACTICE WHOSE TIME HAS COME

 
LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE

 
Highly Effective Learning Experiences: Designed Experiments

 
Highly Effective Learning Experiences: Natural Experiments

 
Highly Effective Learning Experiences: Learning from Action Probes and Operations

 
Highly Effective Learning Experiences: Learning by Observing Samples of One or Fewer

 
LEARNING FROM OTHERS - VICARIOUS LEARNING

 
Absorptive Capacity

 
Importing Knowledge in the Form of Expertise

 
Enhancing Organizational Learning by Enhancing Individual Learning

 
INTRODUCING LEARNING PRACTICES

 
 
Chapter 6 Leveraging Learning through Knowledge Management
SEMATECH

 
THE FOUR REPOSITORIES OF ORGANIZATIONAL KNOWLEDGE

 
THE NEED TO MANAGE KNOWLEDGE

 
DIRECT, INFORMAL KNOWLEDGE SHARING

 
An Example of How Motivation Can Negatively Affect Direct, Informal Knowledge Sharing

 
Organizational Culture: An Achievable Solution to the Problem of Motivation?

 
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

 
Motivational Issues in Knowledge Management Systems

 
Managing Motivation in Knowledge Management Systems

 
Situational Influences Favoring the Use of Extrinsic Motivators

 
Long-lived traditions and cultures

 
Increased use of teams, and of incentives for team performance

 
Lower levels of organizational and group identification

 
Person-to-Person Knowledge Sharing from a Distance

 
PLANNED KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER ACROSS TEAMS

 
Capturing and Transferring Team Learning

 
Obstacles to Intra-Organizational Knowledge Transfer, and Solutions

 
 
Chapter 7 Innovation: The Integration and Exploitation of Knowledge
OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALIZATION

 
WITHIN-FIRM APPROACHES TO INTEGRATING KNOWLEDGE: A BRIEF RECOUNTING OF CURRENT STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES

 
Interim Summary and Transition

 
KNOWLEDGE INTEGRATION STRUCTURES IN FUTURE FIRMS

 
CHANGES IN INTRA-FIRM STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES

 
Dividing and Coordinating the Work

 
Coordination Processes

 
INTER-FIRM STRUCTURES

 
Knowledge Transfer Between Levels and Across Firms: A Brief Update on Current Practice

 
CHANGES IN EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES

 
Changes in Staffing Practices

 
Finding Expertise

 
CHANGES IN EXPERTS' EMPLOYMENT STRATEGIES

 
Factors Curtailing the Growth in Independent Contracting

 
 
Chapter 8 Dealing with the Simultaneous Needs for Change, Productivity, Flexibility and Employee Commitment
MORE-THAN-OCCASIONAL CONFLICTS

 
Change-Productivity Conflict

 
Change-Commitment Conflict

 
Change-Flexibility Conflict

 
Productivity-Commitment Conflict

 
Flexibility-Productivity Conflict and Flexibility-Commitment Conflict

 
DOWNSIZING

 
Downsizing in the Future

 
Forces Inhibiting Downsizing

 
Loss of Organizational Knowledge

 
Lower Productivity of Retained Employees

 
Decreased Effectiveness of Inter-firm Relations

 
Increases in Unwanted Turnover

 
USE OF TEMPORARY AND CONTRACT WORKERS

 
Forces Inhibiting Use of Temporary Workers

 
CHANGE AND CULTURE

 
Environmental Effects on Future Firms' Cultures

 
Environmental Effects on Management's Culture-managing Actions and Success

 
Unintended Adverse Effects on the Firm's Culture

 
How Cultures Affect the Ability of the Firm to Change

 
CULTURE AND COMPENSATION

 
Organizational Culture

 
Changes in the Conditions Favoring Direct Supervision

 
Changes in Conditions Favoring Pay for Performance

 
Changes in Conditions Favoring Pay for Performance for Teams

 
Changes in Conditions Favoring Use of Organizational Culture

 
 
Epilogue

"While many books deal with
decision making and many more deal with environmental complexity, this is one
of the first to lucidly tie them together and provide executives with the
specific tools and mind-set necessary to bring about significant organizational
change. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a key driver of the integration
of business and science, and this book will be a must-read for many of the students
in our masters and executive education programs."

Mason A. Carpenter
University of Wisconsin, winner of six teaching awards in six years, including Most Popular Professor in MBA Business Week Poll

"The
book offers yet another outstanding contribution by an author known for
scholarship and insightful observations about the state of organizations and
their management. The topic is timely and the book offers many useful ideas
that will find their way into practice. I highly recommend it."

Paul C. Nutt
Ohio State University and author of Why Decisions Fail

"This
book is a must read for managers concerned with guiding their organizations
into the information age. Management futurologists and academic writers have
speculated on the features and characteristics of new organizational forms. The Necessary Nature of Future Firms by
George Huber represents the first rigorous in-depth effort at anticipating the
shape of new organizations by combining, recombining, and interpreting a vast
management research literature and presenting it to managerial audiences. The
book is very accessible to a broad managerial audience but especially to
forward looking thoughtful managers concerned with the future of their
organizations."

Arie Y. Lewin
Duke University, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of International Business Studies, and former Editor-in-Chief of Organization Science

“In The
Necessary Nature of Future Firms, George Huber does what Huber does
best--paint a compelling vision of the design of (near) future organizations as
well as the implications of this design. What differentiates Huber’s
‘visioning’ efforts from most others is that they are derived not from
speculation but rather from the collective thinking of a generation of
organizational scientists as interpreted through Huber’s own research and
consulting experiences. This vision of how future firms will be designed
(and, hence, how they will behave) emerges in fact from well-founded
conceptualizations and validated observations.”

Robert Zmud
University of Oklahoma, Senior Editor of MIS Quarterly and of Information Systems Research, and former Editor-in-Chief of MIS Quarterly

“George Huber has written a
wonderfully comprehensive and integrative book on organizational change,
learning, and adaptation. Huber synthesizes the research-based work on change
in a way that will be helpful to scholars, graduate students, as well as
managers interested in organizational learning and change. The book is well
written and provocative. It is a state of the art literature review with an
experienced, practical point of view. This book belongs on both the scholar's
desk as well as in the practitioner's office.”

 

Michael L. Tushman
Harvard Business School, co-author of Navigating Change: How CEOs, Top Teams, and Boards Steer Transformation and also Winning Through Innovation

"Professor
Huber has produced a valuable and very well researched guide for firms making
the necessary transition to the knowledge economy. His sage advice and
experiences will greatly help any organization navigate these tricky and
dangerous waters."

Dr. Lawrence Prusak
Former Executive Director, Institute for Knowledge Management, former Managing Principal with IBM Global Services, and former Principal in Ernst & Young’s Center for Business Innovation

"George
Huber has achieved an amazing feat in this book. He has eloquently described
what it will take for companies to prosper in the future by drawing upon what
we know today--what we really know, based on rigorous research--about speed
flexibility, learning, and innovation. Anyone interested in preparing firms for
tomorrow will benefit from this important book."

Don Hambrick
Pennsylvania State University, former President of the Academy of Management, and co-author of Navigating Change: How CEOs, Top Teams, and Boards Steer Transformation

"Provocative, insightful, and an extraordinary useful look at
managing complex organizations in rapidly changing environments.
This book must be read by managers
and scholars trying to comprehend the challenge of managing in uncertain times
under compressed time constraints."

Ken G. Smith
University of Maryland and former Editor, Academy of Management Review

“In this rich and comprehensive book, George Huber calls on
managers to take stock of their companies through a careful and systematic
analysis of environmental and other pressures that will shape the nature of
business into the future. The depth of analysis and detailed advice for
managers is impressive. The book provides leading-edge perspectives on
knowledge management, change, culture, strategy, and many aspects of decision
making and human resource management. This is a timely and comprehensive book that
includes everything the informed manager needs to know to examine his or her
business and move it successfully into the future. This is a must read for the
serious, thoughtful executive.”

Gerardine DeSanctis
Duke University and co-author of Shaping Organizational Form: Communication, Connection, and Community

“The Necessary Nature of Future Firms is
cleverly written, grounded in history, integrates an unusually extensive survey
of organizational research, and is filled with evocative examples and practical
guidelines which should make it great reading for practitioner and theorist
alike. Huber has accomplished a rare feat--he has created a book that is both
practically relevant for executives and suggests many viable avenues for
organizational scholarship.”

Kathleen M. Sutcliffe
University of Michigan Business School and co-author of Managing the Unexpected

Sample Materials & Chapters

Preface


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