Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise

Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise

Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise

Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprise

Synopsis

This book shows how the seventy largest corporations in America have dealt with a single economic problem: the effective administration of an expanding business. The author summarizes the history of the expansion of the nation's largest industries during the past hundred years and then examines in depth the modern decentralized corporate structure as it was developed independently by four companies--du Pont, General Motors, Standard Oil (New Jersey), and Sears, Roebuck. This 1990 reprint includes a new introduction by the author.

Excerpt

This investigation into the changing strategy and structure of the large industrial enterprise in the United States began as an experiment in the writing of comparative business history. The initial thought was that an examination of the way different enterprises carried out the same activity -- whether that activity was manufacturing, marketing, procurement of supplies, finance, or administration -- would have as much value as a study of how a single firm carried on all these activities. Such a comparative analysis could permit deeper probes into the nature of the function studied, and so provide more accurate interpretations and more meaningful evaluations of the performance of several different enterprises in that activity than could a whole series of histories of individual firms. It could thus indicate more clearly the ways in which American businessmen have handled that activity over the years.

Of the several activities carried on in American business, that of administration appeared to be among the most promising for such an experiment in comparative history. Business administration has a particular relevance for today's businessmen and scholars. The enormous expansion of the American economy since World War II has led to the rapid growth of a multitude of industrial companies. Their executives are faced with complex administrative problems that before the war concerned only those of the largest corporations. At the same time, the growth of units that carry on political, military, educational, medical, as well as business activities has brought their administration to the attention of sociologists, anthropologists, economists, political scientists, and other scholars. Yet the historians have provided social scientists with little empirical data on which to base generalizations or hypotheses concerning the administration of great enterprises. Nor have the historians formulated many theories or generalizations of their own.

If changing developments in business administration presented a challenging area for comparative analysis, the study of innovation seemed to . . .

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