THE CHANGEMASTERS: How People and Companies Succeed Through Innovation in the New Corporate Era by Rosabeth Moss Kanter

THE CHANGEMASTERS: How People and Companies Succeed Through Innovation in the New Corporate Era

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KIRKUS REVIEW

With the books she's edited and written (Life in Organizations, Men and Women of the Organization), her contributions to untold symposia, and her professional counseling, Kanter was the expert-on-the-spot when (as she writes in her second, recapitulative chapter) ""human-resource management moved from backstage to center stage."" Much of what she has to say, and to a degree the way she says it, will sound familiar: ""To get more innovation. . . we need to create conditions, even inside large organizations, that make it possible for individuals to get the power to experiment, to create, to develop, to test."" We need an ""integrative,"" rather than a ""segmentalist,"" approach to a problem. (Fewer barriers between levels, departments, persons.) And, like others, she has examples of innovative American companies to cite (some of which have appeared on previous rosters). But she starts by specifying changes in the 1960-1980 corporate environment (by contrast with the last, 1890-1920 ""transformative era""); she follows with studies of two ""segmentalist"" companies, of different sorts, to illustrate how the innovative spirit is snuffed out (finding, even there, some hardy insurgents), and an account of a departmental overhaul destroyed by corporate indifference--""a tragic drama"" in Kanter's telling, as well as a demonstration of why the surrounding environment matters. The discussion of innovative, ""integrative"" companies--which range from high-tech comers like Wang Labs and pseudonymous ""Chipco,"" through Polaroid and Hewlett-Packard, to corporate-affiliated GE Med Systems and Honeywell's Defense and Marine Systems Group--talks of a ""people-oriented focus,"" a ""culture of pride,"" and so on; but it also describes, at length, a tricky Chipco project for increasing assembly-line effectiveness (and retaining team spirit) via a parallel, participative organization. (Yes, conservatives may say utopian; radicals exploitative.) Subsequent, how-to chapters deal concretely with initiating innovation, managing participation, and changing the corporate culture. ""Can America Do It?"" asks Part V. The answer is an extended, yes-and-no examination of GM. Kanter winds up with yet another plea for an ""American corporate renaissance."" But in the workplace-proper she's a probing alternative to the pursuit of a quick-fix and In Search of Excellence.

Pub Date: Aug. 26th, 1983
Publisher: Simon & Schuster