Organizational Structure

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Creating Management Processes Built for Change

The business literature is full of references to “agile” processes, but what are they? Agility refers to an organization’s ability to make timely, effective, and sustained changes that maintain superior performance. Agile organizations continuously adjust to changing circumstances by changing product offerings, entering or exiting markets, or building new capabilities. This strategy requires management processes that can support adaptability over time.

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A New Era of Corporate Conversation

Social media technology is changing how managers and employees communicate and is breaking down traditional corporate heirarchy. To gain advantage from this trend, executives must recognize the value of dialogue and employees need to know that their leaders won’t punish them for expressing dissenting opinions. Executives will also need patience and a thick skin — but leaders who invest in truly open dialogue with their workforce will reap the long-term benefits.

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Why Digital Transformation Needs a Heart

Digital innovation is transforming every part of the company, from customer experience to business models to operational management. But it’s people who make companies work. The digital economy shouldn’t be one where automation squeezes workers — and managers — out, but one where computers help employees to collaborate fluidly, make decisions scientifically, and manage better with automation than they ever could without it.

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When Strategy Walks Out the Door

Managers should be skeptical consumers of external strategy advice. External strategy advice can be costly — and wrong. The best sources of insight about strategy tailored for your company can lie dormant within the company itself, in its employees. Ironically, companies often expend significant resources on obtaining flawed external advice while the employees with the best strategy ideas are ignored — and thus may walk out the door.

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IoT and Implications for Organizational Structure

  • Opinion & Analysis

In this webinar, James Heppelmann, president and chief executive officer of PTC, discusses how IoT is transforming companies’ organizational structures. He illustrates the new need for companies to coordinate across product design, cloud operation, service improvement, and customer engagement, and some of the models for making the transition to a new structure, including centers of excellence and steering committees.

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Managing the Bots That Are Managing the Business

We are just at the beginning of the transformation from an economy dominated by human workers to one dominated by electronic workers. The great management challenge of the next few decades will be understanding how to get the best out of both humans and machines, and understanding the ins and outs of who manages whom.

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Managing Tensions Between New and Existing Business Models

Exploring new business models may be a good way to stay competitive, but doing so can create tensions internally, in areas such as organizational structure and competition for resources. Companies exploring business model innovation may not recognize the inevitability of these tensions and thus be poorly prepared to manage them. But understanding these issues may lessen some of the organizational challenges associated with business model innovation.

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Building a Better Car Company With Analytics

Using data and analytics to understand the complexities of modern business has become not only common, but essential. Gahl Berkooz joined Ford Motor Co. in 2004, eventually becoming head of data and governance and a member of the company’s global data insights and analytics skill team. Berkooz became acutely aware of how important analytics is to the company’s ability to thrive in the global marketplace. “What it boils down to,” he told MIT SMR’s Michael Fitzgerald, “is that we know how to make decisions. It’s about finding the opportunities to bring data and analytics to make better decisions.”

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Fighting the “Headquarters Knows Best” Syndrome

Belief that headquarters knows best can be damaging to the long-term success of a company operating in global markets. One company’s solution: a decision to operate out of dual headquarters, in the Netherlands and China. “No longer a prisoner of its home base, the top team was viewed as mobile, agile, and geographically dispersed,” write Cyril Bouquet et al. “The company was able to make more effective resource-allocation decisions informed by diverse thinking and divergent points of view.”

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Getting Workplace Safety Right

Companies aiming to be competitive in the long term do not see safety and productivity as trade-offs. Research drawn from multiple studies conducted with the support of companies, unions, and regulators in the United States and Canada finds no evidence that protecting the workforce harms competitiveness. “Once companies understand that safety is not the enemy of efficiency,” the authors write, “they can begin to build organizational safety capabilities.”

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How Well Does Your Company Integrate Demand and Supply?

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 1 min 

An online questionnaire by the authors of the MIT Sloan Management Review article “Integrating Supply and Demand” helps users assess how well their company’s supply chains are helping meet product demand — and serve key customers. The self-assessment lets users rate their companies in five areas in the demand and supply integration spectrum: relevant value focus, integrated knowledge sharing, strategic resource allocation, integrated behavior, and capacity and demand balance.

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Has Your Office Become a Lonely Place?

With increasing amounts of work getting done outside the traditional corporate office — for example, through employees working at home — those left in the office may face a lonelier, and even less productive, office environment. In fact, working remotely may be contagious, because if many people on a team aren’t in the office much, coming into the office has less benefit for the remaining employees. “Once a certain number of individuals are working offsite, everyone is isolated,” write researchers.

Photo by Alexander V. Dokukin

The 2015 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

This year’s winning article is “Combining Purpose With Profits,” by Julian Birkinshaw, Nicolai J. Foss, and Siegwart Lindenberg. The authors examine a familiar question for managers: How can the tension between purpose and profits be best managed? The article explores the kinds of structures companies need to pursue “pro-social” goals. The Beckhard Prize is awarded annually to the authors of the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development.

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How Global Is Your C-Suite?

New research shows that the vast majority of the world’s largest corporations are run by CEOs native to the country in which the company is headquartered. Does that matter? Some studies indicate that national diversity in the top management team can be associated with better performance. What’s more, the presence — or absence — of nonnative executives in a company’s top management team can send a signal to employees outside the home country: It indicates the long-term career prospects for foreign middle managers already in the company as well as for potential hires.

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Why Managers Still Matter

The role of managers needs to be redefined in today’s knowledge-based economy. Managerial authority remains essential in situations where decisions are time-sensitive, knowledge is concentrated and several decisions need to be coordinated. As well, an important task for today’s managers is to define the organizational goals and principles that they want employees to pursue. “From our perspective, the view that executive authority is increasingly passé is wrong,” write the authors.

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The 2014 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

This year’s winning article on planned change and organizational development is “Making Mergers Work,” by Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly. The authors examine why mergers and acquisitions so often fail to achieve the results and synergies they promise. “Our work in this field has convinced us that there is no ‘one best way’ but rather four distinct paths that can be followed to achieve identity integration: assimilation, federation, confederation and metamorphosis,” they write.

Photo by Bengt Wanselius

Combining Purpose With Profits

It’s an old idea: If you want to build a company that truly motivates its employees, it has to have a sense of purpose. A sense of purpose that transcends making money can motivate employees. But to sustain both a sense of purpose and a solid level of profitability over time, companies need to pay attention to several fundamental organizing principles, including the need for support systems that reinforce goals.

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From the Editor: Beyond the Organization

Business executives today are figuring out how to harness the energy not just of the talented people within an organization, but of those outside of it as well. The fall 2013 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review features a special report on leveraging external innovation, from the phenomenon of corporations using innovation contests to an investigation of what motivates volunteers to take part in innovation projects.

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The 2013 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize

The editors of MIT Sloan Management Review announce the winners of the 2013 Richard Beckhard Memorial Prize, awarded to the authors of the most outstanding MIT SMR article on planned change and organizational development published from fall 2011 to summer 2012. The Winners: Eoin Whelan, Salvatore Parise, Jasper de Valk and Rick Aalbers, authors of “Creating Employee Networks That Deliver Open Innovation.”

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