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The Modern Firm: Organizational Design for Performance and Growth (Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies) [Hardcover]

John Roberts
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
Price: 71.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

8 April 2004 Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies
Business firms around the world are experimenting with new organizational designs, changing their formal architectures, their routines and processes, and their corporate cultures as they seek to improve their current performance and their growth prospects. In the process they are changing the scope of their business operations, redrawing their organization charts, redefining the allocation of decision-making authority and responsibility, revamping the mechanisms for motivating and rewarding people, reconsidering which activities to conduct in-house and which to out-source, redesigning their information systems, and seeking to alter the shared beliefs, values and norms that their people hold. In this book, John Roberts argues that there are predictable, necessary relationships among these changes that will improve performance and growth. The organizations that are successful will establish patterns of fit among the elements of their organizational designs, their competitive strategies and the external environment in which they operate and will go about this in a holistic manner. The Modern Firm develops powerful conceptual frameworks for analyzing the interrelations between organizational design features, competitive strategy and the business environment. Written in a non-technical language, the book is nevertheless based on rigorous modeling and draws on numerous examples from eighteenth century fur trading companies to such modern firms such as BP and Nokia. Finally the book explores why these developments are happening now, pointing to the increase in global competition and changes in technology. Written by one of the world's leading economists and experts on business strategy and organization, The Modern Firm provides new insights into the changes going on in business today and will be of interest to academics, students and managers alike. The Modern Firm was the Economist Best Business Book of the Year 2004.

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The Modern Firm: Organizational Design for Performance and Growth (Clarendon Lectures in Management Studies) + Thinking Strategically: Competitive Edge in Business, Politics and Everyday Life (Norton Paperback)
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 332 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (8 April 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198293763
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198293767
  • Product Dimensions: 22.3 x 14.8 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 122,843 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Review business book of the year...deserves to be a classic... Nobody, it can now be said, is fully fit to run a modern firm until they have read "The Modern Firm". The Economist

About the Author

John Roberts holds the John H. Scully Professorship in Economics, Strategic Management and International Business in the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. He has published over seventy scholarly articles in academic journals in a variety of areas in economic theory and game theory and their application to problems in industrial competition and management. He has also written numerous case studies of businesses and co-authored the seminal textbook on the economics and management of firms (Economics, Organization and Management, Prentice Hall 1992).
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
During the first two decades of the twentieth century, managers at Standard Oil of New Jersey, Dupont, Sears Roebuck, and General Motors invited a new way of organizing and managing their businesses. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
There is almost a whole chapter in this book that discusses BP's organizational design and system of performance contracts as a great implementation of Roberts' ideas. John Browne, former CEO of BP, endorsed the book. Browne and other executives have interacted with Roberts in sessions of executive training at Stanford Business School, where Roberts is based.
BP, as everybody is well aware now, has been prone to major failures, the most recent of which was the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but also the explosion of a refinery at Texas City in 2005. The US based Chemical Safety Board and academic Andrew Hopkins ( in his book Failure to Learn) have convincingly argued that the organizational structure of BP, and in particular the system of performance contracts put in place at BP, contributed to the Texas City disaster.
In view of these facts, the claims made by John Roberts in this book should be read with caution.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book on organizational design 17 Sep 2005
By Niklas Kari VINE VOICE
In The Modern Firm John Roberts sets out to present the current practical and scientific knowledge on the concepts of and linkages between strategy, organization and performance. This book is recommended to those who are not looking for simple solutions to complex problems such as organizational design, but rather want to have a compact review of the best knowledge.
The Modern Firm is written in a similar way as for instance the Innovator's Solution by Clayton M. Christensen: (1) it presents theory and concepts that the author draws from some of the best research and illustrates the usefulness of the theory and concepts by real life examples; (2) the book is clearly written and many issues are handled more in-depth in the notes; and (3) the book doesn't pretend that there are simple solutions (do this and you can't fail), rather presents the best available scientific knowledge and let's the reader make the best of implementing it.
This is not to say that the book wouldn't offer any advice - it does, but the reader has to understand the broader context of those advices. The real insight in the book comes from how Mr. Roberts binds the theory into a coherent whole and based on this and his own experience from dozens of companies makes practical advice and illustrations.
The book is very well written, but if you are not used to economic reasoning - and perhaps even if you are - the book's theory part can occasionally be a slow read (for instance when the relationship between the marginal returns of two different variables are discussed). However, I see this as a natural downside of providing an intelligent book. This book is highly recommended for anyone working with organizational change or otherwise interested in the topic.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This work sums up most of the salient advances in management theory and microeconomics of the last decade. Before you read it, you should have some understanding of game theory and strategic management, otherwise you may miss the significance of the arguments put forward. For the prepared reader this book is a compendium of thinking on creative management at the cutting edge of this discipline.
I have the habit of marking my books in two ways. First; I highlight passages to make important concepts easier to find again. Second; I mark my books with tags so that the most important of these can be accessed rapidly without having to page through the volume. The exercise of thinking about the choices I shall make for highlighting and tagging is a way of helping to consolidate the material in my memory; and - ironically - this exercise at times makes the highlighting and tagging redundant.
Now, what am I to do when the book is so rich in material, when it is comprised of such fertile intellectual soil, when so pregnant with insights and meaning, that almost every paragraph needs to be highlighted, and every second page tagged? Of course, I lower the threshold for highlighting and tagging. And, to ensure that much rich material is not forgotten for its quantity, or buried for its density, I read this book a second time.
Only one negative note: Roberts is given to outlandish Americanisms. Anyone sensitive to good English usage will find it difficult to prevent the occasional grammatical shocks from spoiling their reading pleasure. For example; "Absent efficient Coasian bargaining or complete contracting, coordinating across business to handle the externalities will require cooperation in the sense used in Chapter 3..." What he means is: "In the absence of efficient Coasian bargaining...
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Economist Review 17 Dec 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is excellent - and this review, from "The Economist", summarises why (incidentally, "The Economist" names it as the best Economics book of the year, for 2004):
This reviewer's choice as the best book of the year, however, goes to a slim volume put out by Oxford University Press that deserves to be a classic. "The Modern Firm", written by John Roberts, an economics professor at Stanford Business School, lays out in wonderfully lucid and jargon-free language a framework for thinking about corporate structure, given that "any organisation is multifaceted, and the range of organisational variables is mind-boggling".
With an economist's discipline, the author introduces the reader as gently as possible to some demanding and stimulating ideas, ones that have already been tested by the likes of BP. Nobody, it can now be said, is fully fit to run a modern firm until they have read "The Modern Firm".
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