BEYOND HUMAN SCALE: The Large Corporation at Risk by Eli & George Vojta Ginzberg

BEYOND HUMAN SCALE: The Large Corporation at Risk

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On the heels of 101 books on the failings of American corporate management, veteran human-resources expert Ginzberg and banking executive Vojta write, confoundingly, that little attention has been paid to the subject--and then present as conclusions the commonplaces of a few years back: the large corporation's ""working environment is no longer satisfactory to. . . today's better prepared young people who want meaningful work and challenging career opportunities"" (not just the ""good starting salaries, fringe benefits, the lifelong security"" that satisfied the Depression and WW II generations). To reach those shopworn conclusions, the authors traverse considerable ground of chiefly academic interest. Wondering ""to what extent scale alone is dysfunctional,"" they examine other large organizations--noting that even the uniquely successful Catholic Church is in ""crisis,"" at least partly because of ""discontent in the middle ranks."" Reviewing the thinking of economists from Adam Smith onward, they find both ""positive"" and ""negative"" messages as to the long-term prospects of large corporations. (Scale may make economical use of scarce managerial talent; or it may have ""adverse impacts on managerial performance."") Of greatest academic utility may be the authors' summary of changes in corporate structure since the 1920s. e.g., ""The war had left its mark on many senior and middle managers. Many took pride in having been part of a winning team. Moreover, they had been impressed by several aspects of the military. . ."" And they operated in a US-dominated world that put a premium on marketing and sales, where manufacturing took care of itself; a world of mass production, mass markets, and standardized products. Another line of argument concerns corporate inefficiences. The authors suggest that large corporations have a ""cushion"" that acts as an obstacle to change. They also stress that, with top-heavy controls and limited divisional autonomy, much managerial energy is directed to in-fighting, and too much CEO time is spent on ""corporate maintenance."" Their recommendations are measures to loosen-up the structure, to provide for greater flexibility and individual responsibility. In the spectrum of works on the subject, this is sufficiently broad and unremarkable to have some potential as a textbook--even as it does little or nothing to advance our thinking.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1985
Publisher: Basic Books