Dancing giants: the need
Faced with the new environment, there can be few organizations that have not had to restructure. The main objective has been to be more flexible. At the same time, organizations have sought to reduce costs. Indeed, for many organizations, cutting costs has been an end in itself. The coupling of the need for flexibility with the imperative to control costs has entailed job losses.
The need for flexibility is ongoing. Organizations have been faced with the requirement to adapt continuously to meet the needs of customers. Mirvis and Hall (1996b) describe the new environment as one that requires firms to be free, fast and facile, to which they give the label 'the 3F organization'. Free means organizations having components that are autonomous and able to respond to changes in their own market segments. Fast means being able to respond quickly to situations and facile means being able to change thinking practices and routines.
If they have concentrated on being a 3F organization within the context of minimizing costs, organizations have been tempted to jettison the sense of their having a long-term commitment towards their members of staff. As Mirvis and Hall (1996b) put it, 'traditional career paths have become dinosaurs' (p. 74). The erstwhile commitment to people has been replaced by the notion of making them employable either inside or outside the organization.
The pressures to cut costs and to be flexible are enormous and unarguable. The problem is that answering them potentially makes it harder to be certain of securing the services of knowledge workers.
While an organization can, to an extent, accept higher costs and prices and compete on quality, it cannot simply ignore its cost base. With increased competition, this has become truer than ever. Controlled costs mean