Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will

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The following is a highlighted summary of the book, A Stake in the Outcome, published by Doubleday & Company. The statements below are key points of the book as determined by James Altfeld and have been made available at no charge to the user.

Control Your Destiny or Someone Else Will
(p.4) Workers who share their employer’s goals don’t need much supervision. • • • • • • Control your destiny, or someone else will. Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it were. Be candid with everyone. Don’t manage, lead. Change before you have to. If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.

“facing reality is crucial in life, not just in business. You have to see the world in the purest, clearest way possible, or you can’t make decisions on a rotational basis. “If you weren’t already in business, would you enter it today? The need to boost innovation and productivity is the imperative behind the GE revolution and the main challenge confronting any business that competes in world markets. Efforts to improve productivity such as “just-in-time” inventory controls are pushing corporations into an unprecedented dependence on their suppliers. The old organization was built on control, but the world has changed. The world is moving at such a pace that control has become a limitation. It slows you down, you’ve got to balance freedom with some control, but you’ve got to have more freedom that you’ve ever dreamed of. Until employees accept personal responsibility for their work, they need supervision, which Welch regards as a waste of time. GE tries to eliminate supervisory positions, giving more people to control their own work. I see the process of corporate transformation as a three-act drama. These three acts usually overlap, but each depends on the one before. In Act I, the organization awakens to the need for change; this is a time when tyrannical behavior can serve a useful purpose, since the awakening requires a frontal assault on the status quo. The goal of the attack is not to frighten employees, but to arouse the emotional energy of an entire organization. That energy, which manifests itself as fear and later as personal commitment to a plan of action, is the only fuel that can sustain a revolution.

Act I usually leaves workers and junior managers in confusion and despair, because the process destroys what’s familiar and comfortable without providing a new basis for emotional security. In Act II, the organization creates a blueprint for the future. As the old ways are swept away, even people who have resisted change begin to recognize the need for something new. The leader responds by articulating a new vision. But a vision can’t be acted upon until it is shared, so effective communication becomes critical.

(p.25) Act II concerns the creation of structures to institutionalize the organization’s vision. New practices are created to embody the new ideas; over time, these practices influence the way employees think. • • • • • What does your global competitive environment look like? In the last three years, what have your competitors done to you? In the same period, what have you done to them? How might they attack you in the future? What are your plans to leapfrog them?

(p.38) Back to the late 1800s, when the “modern” business bureaucracy was just emerging. That is when the German theorists Max Weber extolled the benefits of systematic organizational controls such as clear chains of command and advancement based on merit. Corporations built on the Weberian model have relied ever since on bureaucratic schemes to reduce the inherent uncertainties of business. The ideal was a system of such clear and enforceable rules that an organization could function with machinelike predictability. People were not expected to have ideas; the ideas were built into the system itself, as in Ford’s famous assembly… The larger and more complex the company, the more obvious the benefit of this so-called scientific...
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