On October 28, 1994, the MIT Sloan School and Price Waterhouse cohosted a roundtable discussion among CEOs, PW partners, and Sloan faculty. Walter Kiechel, then managing editor of Fortune, moderated the discussion, which focused on the organization in the year 2020 — its size, structure, leadership, and mission.
The conversation, of which we publish only a small portion, was split into three sessions. The first focused on forces of change. In the second, Sloan professor Thomas Malone presented two scenarios for how organizations might develop, and the participants reacted to them. Peter Senge, director of MIT’s Center for Organizational Learning, then proposed characteristics that tomorrow’s organizations will need to foster, and the group responded to those.
As in any lively, wide-ranging conversation, several themes emerged and reemerged in different forms, as the session progressed. Which is harder to manage, technology or people? Which matters more? Will the trend toward radical outsourcing continue, or are we learning that, by outsourcing, we lose control? Are organizations increasingly unpleasant places to work? Will the gap between the haves and have nots continue to grow and, if so, at what price?
Walter Kiechel III, former managing editor, Fortune, moderator
Edgar Bronfman, Jr., president and CEO, The Seagram Company Ltd.
Richard A. Goldstein, president and CEO, Unilever United States, Inc.
Mike Harris, chief executive, Cable & Wireless Federal Developments
Thomas Malone, professor, MIT Sloan School
Jim Manzi, chairman of the board, president, and CEO, Lotus Development Corporation
John William Melbourn, deputy group chief executive, National Westminster Bank PLC
William J. O’Brien, former president and CEO, The Hanover Insurance Companies
James Schiro, chairman and senior partner-elect, Price Waterhouse
Michael Scott Morton, professor, MIT Sloan School
Peter Senge, director, Center for Organizational Learning, MIT Sloan School
Richard F. Teerlink, president and CEO, Harley-Davidson, Inc.
Javier Tizado, CEO, Siderar S.A.I.C. – Teepetrol
Paul Turner, partner, Price Waterhouse
Session One: Forces of Change
Kiechel: Our subject this morning is the organization of the year 2020. What forces will be most important in shaping that organization?
Manzi: Technology. Microprocessor power doubles every eighteen months, and the same is now true of telecommunications speed and bandwidth. I think this combination underlies the changes that companies are experiencing.
Kiechel: Let me frame the discussion in more sweeping terms. The core infrastructure of the present industrial economy is giving way to a new economy that has at its core the convergence of computing power and telecommunications.