Philips vs Panasonic: Facing the 2008 Economic Crisis

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IB40 SPRING 2012

Philips vs Panasonic: Facing the 2008 economic crisis
MSc. IBS
CPR 160989 – 3679 4/25/2012

1. Introduction Panasonic and Philips are two of the main consumer electronics companies in the world with different origins but similar international path. Several hurdles were faced by both companies in their evolution. This paper will analysis how the administrative heritage of Philips and Panasonic caused problem in the changing of their strategy, causing problem in the implementation of the respective strategic decisions. Moreover it tries to explain how time contingences and the external environment had influenced the strategy of the two MNEs and shape the organizational structure; sometimes leading to success, sometimes losing ground in the market field. Nowadays the main tasks of the two companies are conflictual : for Panasonic defending its leadership position, for Philips challenging the global leader. How to reach these goals? The last paragraph will address these objectives providing to the CEOs of the respective companies further steps to consider in order to remain competitive in the market field, from 2008 looking forward. 2. How the environment and culture shape companies’ strategy and organization 2.1 Philips evolution: from responsive to integrated Philips’s strategy, right after WWII, led the company to its success. The economic situation during the 30s, forced the company to transfer part of its assets and laboratories abroad. This led to a dispersion of responsibilities. Countries protectionism, high tariffs and trade barriers required local production facilities. These problems led to the adoption of a decentralized federation with independent and self sufficient units and autonomous marketing. The contingent environment spurred the management to rebuild their structures upon National Operations (NOs). Philips built its success on a worldwide portfolio of responsive national organizations. Economic conditions, tastes and preferences, at that time, differed across countries; corporate management treated subsidiaries as independent national businesses with the aim to satisfy local needs. National Organizations were so vigil that they manage to preempt products required by customers, launching products such as the first color TV, the first stereo TV and the first TV with teletext. Innovation and R&D were the core strength of the company. They were flexible, responsive and fast in the approach to market. Entrepreneurial initiatives derived, not from top down imposition, but from every single division. The company succeeded in managing its innovation and to bring it to the next level, making innovation and customer’s needs the purpose of their business. The focus on national 1

responsiveness was appropriate since the 50-60s, when it started to become the firm’s limitation. The great focus given to tailor solution to costumers’ tastes increased the cost of production and led to a dispersion of subsidiaries across too many countries. Problems of efficiencies and coordination arose. The company took several years to get rid of its matrix structure. Attempts to shift the companies to a slimmer organization in order to become more efficient in its production were slow and cumbersome. The National Operations continued to detain major responsibilities. The company was captive of its past. Contrarily to management prevision, the matrix structure created more problems that it solved. It was more complex than either the “worldwide area structure” or “the worldwide product structure”, and it created conflicts of responsibilities. Market signals warned the company to implement changes in the way business was conducted. However, in the 1990s, the company was, still, going through major losses. The structure was too costly and value added higher, compared to Japanese production facilities. Even if a good objective were settled in the strategic planning, however, as history showed, the further step of...
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