A grand design for radically restructuring multinational corporations to make them not only more adaptive and accommodating but also better able to compete in domestic as well as global markets. At the heart of the master plan outlined by Harvard Business School professor Mills (Not Like Our Parents, 1987) is duster (as opposed to hierarchical or matrix) organization, which would allow cutting-edge enterprises to encompass almost any number of effectively autonomous, self-directing work groups with from 30 to 50 members apiece. Such cadres, including so-called core teams (equivalent to top management), would be able to take full advantage of advanced information technology; thanks to the elimination of bureaucratic obstacles, new opportunities for productive collaboration, and allied gains, task forces could also enhance the performance of their parent companies. Departmental and divisional experiments apart, however, examples of duster organization remain thin on the ground. Mills nonetheless offers a fair selection of upbeat case studies drawn from the blue-chip likes of British Petroleum, DuPont, IBM Canada, Square D, Swissair, and Volvo. He also provides step-by-step instructions on how to create a cluster organization, cautioning that makeovers require thoroughgoing, even convulsive, changes in administrative procedures, attitude, executive behavior, physical layouts, and other areas. By the author's account, moreover, duster organizations are vulnerable on several fronts. They are dependent upon first-rate leadership, and, without clear lines of authority, keeping morale and motivation at acceptable levels can prove a trickier proposition than at traditionally ordered concerns. In addition, there may be discernible losses of supervisory control and lower-echelon expertise. But Mills also argues that cluster organizations better suit the professional aspirations of today's educated and independent employees, making them more responsive to customer needs. Just how this beguiling notion squares with corporate America's complaint that literate, numerate hirelings are increasingly hard to come by, he does not say. In brief, then, a detailed blueprint for industrial/commercial renewal that's provocative and plausible, if not wholly persuasive.
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