The Twenty-First-Century Firm: Changing Economic Organization in International Perspective

The Twenty-First-Century Firm: Changing Economic Organization in International Perspective

The Twenty-First-Century Firm: Changing Economic Organization in International Perspective

The Twenty-First-Century Firm: Changing Economic Organization in International Perspective

Synopsis

"Students of management are nearly unanimous (as are managers themselves) in believing that the contemporary business corporation is in a period of dizzying change. This book represents the first time that leading experts in sociology, law, economics, and management studies have been assembled in one volume to explain the varying ways in which contemporary businesses are transforming themselves to respond to globalization, new technologies, workforce transformation, and legal change. Together their essays, whose focal point is an emerging network form of organization, bring order to the chaotic tumble of diagnoses, labels, and descriptions used to make sense of this changing world." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Paul DiMaggio

A GLANCE at the covers of contemporary business periodicals reveals that many people believe the corporation is changing so dramatically that we need a new lexicon to describe it. On a recent trip to my local book superstore, I found eleven titles that sought the right word to characterize the company of the future in a time of dizzying change. Some of these— The Boundaryless Organization (Ashkenas et al. 1998), The Centerless Organization (Pasternack and Viscio 1998), The Clickable Corporation (Rosenoer et al. 1999)—seized upon the greater permeability of organizational borders as the central image. Several others—The Collaborative Enterprise (Campbell and Goold 1999), The Horizontal Organization (Ostroff 1999), The SelfManaging Organization (Purser and Cabana 1998)—emphasized the flattening of hierarchy and a putative shift toward more cooperative forms of management. Still others—The Minding Organization (Rubenstein and Firstenberg 1999), The Learning Company (Pedler et al. 1991), The Learning Organization (Garratt 1994), The Knowledge-Creating Company (Nonaka 1995)—emphasized the central role of creativity, learning, and knowledge in the effective organization of the future.

Once observers of companies get down to specifics, the ways in which they characterize these changes are astonishingly disparate. Are contemporary firms recognizing the importance of their human assets, integrating employees into decision making as never before, investing in staff and workers, and defining them as “stakeholders”? Or are they treating workers as commodities, wringing the last ounce of commitment and energy from their employees, demanding give-backs from unions, and breaking implicit “lifetime-employment” contracts with managers in waves of ruthless downsizing? Is the “new firm” small and flexible, engaged in a web of collaborations with other small enterprises, each specialized to perform at peak capacity? Or is it an ever-expanding global leviathan, bloated with acquisitions after a decade of unprecedented merger activity? Does the

I am grateful to Peter Marsden, David Stark, and Charles Tilly for helpful comments
on an earlier draft of this introduction.

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