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Further Reading

Excerpt from Go For Growth

By Robert M. Tomasko



If you have enjoyed Go for Growth, there are a number of other books that expand on its perspective. Grouped by topic, here are some of the best and most useful.

Strategy and Organization
Go for Growth is one of a long line of books that relates business strategies to the varying organizational configurations needed to carry them out. Business historian Alfred Chandler is the pioneer of this perspective and his Strategy and Structure (M.I.T. Press, 1962) is a classic. Two of his Harvard colleagues, Paul Lawrence and Jay Lorsch, fleshed out some of these ideas in Organization and Environment (Harvard Business School Press, 1967), with some of the first research on the contingency approach to organizing.

Paul Lawrence has had a lot of influence on me as a teacher also, helping me understand some of the dangers of "one-size-fits-all" management. Paul practices what he preaches. Even though his Matrix (Addison-Wesley, 1977), written with Stanley Davis, helped launch the popularity of matrix management, the book begins with suggestions about what situations it is appropriate for and also includes a long list of "matrix pathologies," a level of candor missing from many contemporary business books.

Another important early proponent of the idea that effective companies identify homogeneous segments of their markets and then establish specialized organization units to deal with them was James Thompson in Organizations in Action (McGraw-Hill, 1967). This book has many insights that are still fresh today.

Types of Companies
Business school professors and consultants were among the first to apply the contingency idea to discover why some businesses were great successes and others only also-rans. The research of Raymond Miles and Charles Snow in Organizational Strategy, Structure and Process (McGraw-Hill, 1978) influenced much of my early thinking about this subject. Their breakdown of businesses into Defenders, Prospectors, Analyzers and Reactors does not correspond directly with the five growth paths herein, but their work provides great clues about how to start thinking about organizational strategy.

Danny Miller, a Canadian business school professor whose research has been cited at several points in this book, is a not-to-be-missed describer of the dynamics of growth and decline. Read his The Icarus Paradox (Harper Business, 1990). Miller's four company types include Craftsmen, Salesmen, Builders and Pioneers.

Two management consultants have focused on the life cycle approach to characterizing a company's growth stage. Lawrence Miller's Barbarians to Bureaucrats (Fawcett Columbine, 1989) is a pleasure to read for those concerned about sustaining growth. Ichak Adizes' Corporate Lifecycles (Prentice Hall, 1988) is a more detailed account of what needs to happen when a business grows.

Some of the best thinking about organizational life cycles is in Larry Greiner's Harvard Business Review (July-August 1972, pp.36-46) article titled "Evolution and Revolution as Organizations Grow." Don't attempt to reorganize without reading it!

A number of books describe the stories of companies on each of the five growth paths. Look for some of the recent accounts of Apple. Federal Express, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart. For some reason Xerox attracts more than its fair share of authors. Read David Dorsey's The Force (Ballantine, 1994) to learn what it is really like to work in a Game Player, and Douglas Smith and Robert Alexander's Fumbling the Future (Morrow, 1988) to understand why Xerox has such a hard time blending the paths of the Game Player and Rule Breaker.

Steven Schnaars' Managing Imitation Strategies (Free Press, 1994) is the best guide available about how to be a star Game Player. Built to Last (Harper Business, 1994), by James Collins and Jerry Porras, provides good detail on the success habits of typical Rule Makers and Game Players. Gary Hamel and C.K. Prahalad's Competing for the Future (Harvard Business School Press,1994) advises Rule Makers how they can become Rule Breakers.

Applying Psychology to Understand Why Companies Do What They Do
The underlying logic of this book is based on applying lessons from psychology to business. There is a great deal of leverage to be gained by blending insights from these two fields, something most people in business have yet to discover.

You could begin by reviewing your college texts, but why not start with what the best author in this field has to say. Harry Levinson's Psychological Man (The Levinson Institute, 1976) is the clearest introduction to industrial-strength psychology for managers. If you are serious about wanting to really sort out the inner dynamics of your company, Levinson's 557 page guide is called Organizational Diagnosis (Harvard University Press, 1972).

To probe more deeply into personality styles and how they develop, see David Shapiro's Neurotic Styles (Basic Books, 1965) and George Vaillant's Adaptation to Life (Little, Brown, 1977). Vaillant's book, subtitled "How the Best and Brightest Came of Age" is a great account of how an adult's personality keeps evolving - you'll find some parallels with how corporate "psyches" develop. Both books require some real interest in psychology, but if you have it you will find good value therein.

Abraham Zaleznik, along with Levinson, is a leading thinker in the emerging field of corporate psychodynamics. Two of his best books are Power and the Corporate Mind (Houghton Mifflin, 1975), written with Manfred Kets de Vries, and The Managerial Mystique
(Harper & Row, 1989). Kets de Vries has followed up Zaleznick's work with a number of excellent books of his own. One of his best for business readers is Unstable at the Top (New American Library, 1987), co-authored by Danny Miller.

Several other books sort out managers by personality type or culture they best thrive in. Michael Maccoby's The Gamesman (Simon and Schuster, 1976) is the first to had attracted widespread business attention. Charles Handy's Gods of Management (Pan Books Ltd., 1979) is fun to read. Handy names his managers after Greek mythical gods: Zeus, Apollo, Athena and Dionysus.

Probably the most commonly used application of psychology to business is the Myers-Briggs indicator of personality type. While it is a more limited perspective than some of the others mentioned above, it 's a good exercise to try to match these 16 types with the five paths to growth. Otto Kroeger and Janet Thuesen's Type Talk (Delacorte Press, 1988) is a good introduction, and Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger's Do What You Are (Little, Brown, 1992) shows how to apply these ideas to select a well-fitting career.

People Count Most
Most books about how people are the key to corporate growth have as much apple pie in them as a typical Sunday sermon. One that gets beyond the platitudes and really sorts out why some companies do a great job of using their employees' talents (and most utterly fail) is Robert Levering's A Great Place to Work (Random House, 1988). Levering is the journalist who regularly puts out the list of the 100 best places to work in America. This book tells how to get on his list.

What is Organization?
My perspective on organization as something that provides direction, propulsion and stability was influenced by John Kotter's Organizational Dynamics (Addison-Wesley, 1978) and Richard Pascale and Anthony Athos' The Art of Japanese Management (Simon and Schuster, 1981).

The best all around thinker on what "organizing" really means is Karl Weick. He tells all about it (including more details on the Naskapi Indians) in The Social Psychology of Organizing (Addison-Wesley, 1979). The other thought leader here is Henry Mintzberg, author of a compendium, The Structuring of Organizations (Prentice-Hall, 1979).

Organizational Learning and the Hidden Dynamics of Growth
Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline (Doubleday Currency, 1990) has done a great job of popularizing the essentials of organizational learning, a survival necessity for Improvisers and key to any company's ability to sustain growth. If this subject is of interest, you may want to turn to a book by two of the field's founders, Chris Argyris and Donald Schon: Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective (Addison-Wesley, 1978).

Some of the best thinking about how businesses use learning and knowledge development to drive growth has been done in Sweden and Japan. One of the most creative books written about the hidden dynamics of corporate growth, especially the political dimensions, is Richard Normann's Management and Statesmenship (Scandinavian Institutes for Administrative Research, Stockholm, 1978). It's hard to find but well worth the trouble.

Some of the latest ideas about how companies like Canon, Honda and NEC grow through innovation and knowledge management are found in The Knowledge-Creating Company (Oxford, 1995) by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi.

Metaphors and Missions
John Clancy has an original discussion of the ways language and metaphors are clues to a company's priorities in The Invisible Powers (Lexington, 1989). Mission statements from companies worldwide are dissected in A Sense of Mission (Addison-Wesley, 1992 by Andrew Campbell and Laura Nash.

Using Corporate History
Several authors have tackled ways knowledge of history and a company's past can help guide its future. Alan Kantrow's The Constraints of Corporate Tradition (Harper & Row, 1988) is a good account of how mind sets are created; Scuttle Your Ships Before Advancing (Oxford, 1994) is Richard Luecke's retelling of several historical episodes along with their relevance to business decision makers.

If this is a subject of strong interest, the best "how to do it" book about using the lessons of past to make better decisions today is Richard Neustadt and Ernest May's Thinking in Time (Free Press, 1986).

Change is a subject that runs through all the books that have been mentioned. While business bookshelves abound with books on "change management" one of the best for ideas about how to move a big corporation from one growth path to another is James Brian Quinn's Strategies for Change (Irwin, 1980). He calls his approach "logical incrementalism." It works.


© Robert M. Tomasko 2002

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