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The Summer 2012 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review look at the ways so much of business comes down to people — and how they work together, both within organizations and in partnerships between organizations.
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Trends suggest that the public is no longer satisfied with corporations that focus solely on short-term profits. A recent study comparing companies that adopted environmental and social policies with companies that didn’t supports this view. However, few companies are born with a commitment to sustainability. To develop one, companies need leadership commitment, an ability to engage with multiple stakeholders along the value chain, employee engagement and disciplined mechanisms for execution.
Companies’ use of sophisticated Six Sigma tools and similar improvement activities often creates information overload for workers, writes Satya S. Chakravorty of the Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University.
What’s one of the challenges to successful management or process innovation in an existing business? The array of organizational structures that are designed to keep current processes running smoothly.
Customer-focused transformation is producing long-term, sustainable growth through a systemic, tested process. The approach gets all employees collaborating to identify the outcomes that customers need — and to help them get there.
Most management advice urges companies to undertake frequent and radical change in order to stay competitive. But, says the author, such advice is overprescribed, and those that continue to heed it risk initiative overload, organizational chaos and employee burnout.
A generation of managers is obsessed with the idea of dramatic, turbulent change. This is misguided hype, say the authors. Drawing on management literature, history and company examples such as IBM, General Electric and British Airways, they contend that a sensible framework for change must recognize the subtle interplay of its various forms as well as the importance of stability and continuity.
Warren Bennis and a panel of experts in leadership development discuss the “legitimization of doubt,” which frees managers to admit they don’t know everything and to begin the serious learning that improves competitiveness. “Most managers find it unnerving to be thrown into situations they can’t anticipate,” says Bennis. “Accustomed to being on top of everything, they are now experiencing doubt. And they should be.”
Increasingly, information technology isn't just for supporting the strategy, it is the strategy. Unfortunately, many CEOs send their managers negative signals about IT's role. Only the "believer CEO," who demonstrates through daily actions a belief in the strategic value of IT, can help others manage effectively in the Information Age. The authors offer examples of such CEOs and give some techniques for addressing blind spots to improve an organization's competitiveness.
To confront competitive discontinuities, managers must lead their organizations from the zone of comfort to the zone of opportunity.
When companies downsize, managers need to consider how to bolster their employees' morale in order to maintain productivity and engender flexibility. The authors propose a four-stage approach -- gleaned from interviews and surveys -- that will mitigate worker mistrust and disempowerment and will, they say, help build a better company.
What can the plant manager at a Japanese soy sauce producer teach us about reengineering? In this case study, the authors describe Toshio Okuno's five techniques for managing major changes in his company. By focusing first on changing people's attitudes toward change and encouraging them to be creative, Okuno brought about significant improvements in processes and results. And the managers and workers, rather than reengineering consultants, began to propose ideas for change. Okuno's techniques work as an integrated system that allow his company to innovate continuously and present many lessons for making change fun.
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