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The Necessary Nature of Future Firms
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The Necessary Nature of Future Firms
Attributes of Survivors in a Changing World

  • George P. Huber - The University of Texas at Austin, USA, School of Geography, University Oxford Centre for the Environment


December 2003 | 328 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Click 'Additional Materials' for downloadable sample chapter

"George Huber makes an important contribution with profound insights on what the future firm will look like. It will be congruent with its environment. To realize opportunities from continuing advances in science and technology and environmental complexity, the successful firm in the future will be especially good at gaining environmental intelligence, learning and integrating knowledge, and being innovative and flexible. This is not a fanciful prophesy; it is a necessary logical conclusion that Huber draws from an extensive body of scientific knowledge."

         --Andrew H. Van de Ven, University of Minnesota, Past President of the Academy of
               Management, and coauthor of Organizational Change and Innovation Processes

"Huber gives a compelling account of the future landscape that many managers have to face today. Filled with solid academic research laced with real-world examples, Huber not only conveys the shape of that landscape, but also the roadmap to navigate it."

--Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, Stanford University and coauthor of Competing on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos

"This is an important book for any manager who faces a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive environment--which is to say, virtually every manager. Huber makes a cogent case for the fact that businesses will face much more dynamic and competitive environments in the future than they face today. More importantly, he offers practical advice for how managers can prepare for the uncertain future they face. Clearly written and carefully grounded in the best research evidence available, this book stands head and shoulders above the many management books offering short-term fads, fashions, and therapies of the moment."

--Richard T. Mowday, University of Oregon, former President of the Academy of Management, and former Editor of the Academy of Management Journal

Click 'Reviews' to read more pre-publication praise for The Necessary Nature of Future Firms

Survival depends on the ability to read imminent shifts in the environment and respond accordingly. This holds true for any living system, but it is especially true for firms today.

The business environment is now changing rapidly, but will change even more rapidly in the future. Only firms that can respond to these changes will survive. It is important to know, then, how business's future landscape will look. George Huber's new book, The Necessary Nature of Future Firms, describes this landscape clearly and credibly and makes explicit the organizational attributes and management practices firms must possess to be among the ranks of the "future firms."

Advances in science and technology will continue to affect business environments, making them more complex, dynamic and competitive. Moreover, this complexity and dynamism will increase at increasing rates. As the book makes clear, successful firms will cope with or exploit these changes by increasing their capabilities for correctly interpreting threats and opportunities, making decisions, acquiring and managing knowledge, innovating, and changing while simultaneously dealing with the needs for efficiency, flexibility, and employee commitment.

The Necessary Nature of Future Firms is written for managers, especially those managing change. Professionals in a wide variety of organizational roles will find it a particularly useful reference for its foresight and as an invaluable tool in winning approval for projects and initiatives. Academics in change management, information systems, organizational science, strategy, and human resources management can draw on the book as a supplementary text or as a source for lecture materials.

References housed in endnotes rather than in the text contribute to the book's readability and ease of use, as does the accessible writing style. But for all its accessibility and reader friendliness, The Necessary Nature of Future Firms is still firmly grounded in scholarship. Hundreds of authoritative works and systematic studies specifically inform this book, as do Huber's own studies and his interviews with over 100 middle- and upper-level managers about changes in their organizations.  To add meaning and interest, the book's insights and conclusions are elaborated with real world examples.

 
Chapter 1 Dangerous Deficiencies
WHAT IS HAPPENING? WHAT IS NOT?

 
THE ROLE OF TOP MANAGEMENT

 
ABOUT THIS BOOK

 
 
Chapter 2 The Future Environments of Business Organizations
SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE AND IMPROVED TECHNOLOGY

 
Scientific Knowledge

 
Improved Technologies

 
Mental Blocks to Imagining a Different World on the Same Planet

 
Interim Summary and Transition

 
THE COMPLEXITY OF FUTURE ENVIRONMENTS

 
Environmental Variety

 
Environmental Density and Interdependence

 
Interim Summary and Transition

 
ENVIRONMENTAL DYNAMISM AND COMPETITIVENESS

 
Velocity, Turbulence, and Instability

 
Environmental Competitiveness

 
 
Chapter 3 Sensing and Interpreting the Environment
FACIT AB

 
IMPORTANCE OF ENVIRONMENTAL SENSING AND INTERPRETATION

 
Consequences and Importance of Interpretation

 
ENVIRONMENTAL SENSING IN FUTURE FIRMS

 
Intelligence Gathering

 
Intelligence Gathering As a Staff Function? As an Outsourced Function?

 
Intelligence Gathering As Specialized Accountability

 
Intelligence Gathering As Eclectic Responsibility

 
Supporting Sensors

 
Probing the Environment

 
Sensing Early Responses to the Firm's Actions and Products

 
Top Managers As Environmental Sensors

 
INTERPRETING WHAT IS SENSED

 
Declines in Quality and Timeliness of Organizational Interpretations

 
Enhancing Interpretation in Future Firms

 
Faulty Interpretations

 
 
Chapter 4 Organizational Decision Making
DECISIONS AND DECISION MAKING RESOURCE IN FUTURE FIRMS

 
Increasing Environmental Dynamism and Its Consequences

 
Increasing Environmental Complexity and Its Consequences

 
Increasing Competitiveness and Its Consequences

 
Decision Maker Capabilities: Past, Present, Future

 
DECISION MAKING PRACTICES IN FUTURE FIRMS

 
Ensuring Scope

 
Ensuring Speed

 
Effects of Forthcoming Information Technologies on Decision Speed and Scope

 
IT Investments Focused on Analysis

 
IT Investments Focused on Communication

 
TEMPTING PRACTICES

 
Intuitive Decision Making

 
Satisfying and Analogizing

 
Firms' Responses to Personal Propensities to Use Short-cut Methods

 
 
Chapter 5 Knowledge Acquisition: Organizational Learning
LEARNING, KNOWLEDGE, AND INNOVATION

 
ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING: A PRACTICE WHOSE TIME HAS COME

 
LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE

 
Highly Effective Learning Experiences: Designed Experiments

 
Highly Effective Learning Experiences: Natural Experiments

 
Highly Effective Learning Experiences: Learning from Action Probes and Operations

 
Highly Effective Learning Experiences: Learning by Observing Samples of One or Fewer

 
LEARNING FROM OTHERS - VICARIOUS LEARNING

 
Absorptive Capacity

 
Importing Knowledge in the Form of Expertise

 
Enhancing Organizational Learning by Enhancing Individual Learning

 
INTRODUCING LEARNING PRACTICES

 
 
Chapter 6 Leveraging Learning through Knowledge Management
SEMATECH

 
THE FOUR REPOSITORIES OF ORGANIZATIONAL KNOWLEDGE

 
THE NEED TO MANAGE KNOWLEDGE

 
DIRECT, INFORMAL KNOWLEDGE SHARING

 
An Example of How Motivation Can Negatively Affect Direct, Informal Knowledge Sharing

 
Organizational Culture: An Achievable Solution to the Problem of Motivation?

 
KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS

 
Motivational Issues in Knowledge Management Systems

 
Managing Motivation in Knowledge Management Systems

 
Situational Influences Favoring the Use of Extrinsic Motivators

 
Long-lived traditions and cultures

 
Increased use of teams, and of incentives for team performance

 
Lower levels of organizational and group identification

 
Person-to-Person Knowledge Sharing from a Distance

 
PLANNED KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER ACROSS TEAMS

 
Capturing and Transferring Team Learning

 
Obstacles to Intra-Organizational Knowledge Transfer, and Solutions

 
 
Chapter 7 Innovation: The Integration and Exploitation of Knowledge
OCCUPATIONAL SPECIALIZATION

 
WITHIN-FIRM APPROACHES TO INTEGRATING KNOWLEDGE: A BRIEF RECOUNTING OF CURRENT STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES

 
Interim Summary and Transition

 
KNOWLEDGE INTEGRATION STRUCTURES IN FUTURE FIRMS

 
CHANGES IN INTRA-FIRM STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES

 
Dividing and Coordinating the Work

 
Coordination Processes

 
INTER-FIRM STRUCTURES

 
Knowledge Transfer Between Levels and Across Firms: A Brief Update on Current Practice

 
CHANGES IN EMPLOYMENT PRACTICES

 
Changes in Staffing Practices

 
Finding Expertise

 
CHANGES IN EXPERTS' EMPLOYMENT STRATEGIES

 
Factors Curtailing the Growth in Independent Contracting

 
 
Chapter 8 Dealing with the Simultaneous Needs for Change, Productivity, Flexibility and Employee Commitment
MORE-THAN-OCCASIONAL CONFLICTS

 
Change-Productivity Conflict

 
Change-Commitment Conflict

 
Change-Flexibility Conflict

 
Productivity-Commitment Conflict

 
Flexibility-Productivity Conflict and Flexibility-Commitment Conflict

 
DOWNSIZING

 
Downsizing in the Future

 
Forces Inhibiting Downsizing

 
Loss of Organizational Knowledge

 
Lower Productivity of Retained Employees

 
Decreased Effectiveness of Inter-firm Relations

 
Increases in Unwanted Turnover

 
USE OF TEMPORARY AND CONTRACT WORKERS

 
Forces Inhibiting Use of Temporary Workers

 
CHANGE AND CULTURE

 
Environmental Effects on Future Firms' Cultures

 
Environmental Effects on Management's Culture-managing Actions and Success

 
Unintended Adverse Effects on the Firm's Culture

 
How Cultures Affect the Ability of the Firm to Change

 
CULTURE AND COMPENSATION

 
Organizational Culture

 
Changes in the Conditions Favoring Direct Supervision

 
Changes in Conditions Favoring Pay for Performance

 
Changes in Conditions Favoring Pay for Performance for Teams

 
Changes in Conditions Favoring Use of Organizational Culture

 
 
Epilogue

“After a
lifetime of important insights in the areas of organizational design and
decision making, Huber has produced his magnum opus. His insights and ideas can
help even the most seasoned manager see the world differently and become more
effective.”

C. Chet Miller
Wake Forest University, Director of the Executive MBA Program at Wake Forest University and former Director of the Executive MBA Program at Baylor University

"This
is an important book for any manager who faces a rapidly changing and
increasingly competitive environment--which is to say, virtually every manager.
Huber makes a cogent case for the fact that businesses will face much more
dynamic and competitive environments in the future than they face today. More
importantly, he offers practical advice for how managers can prepare for the
uncertain future they face. Clearly written and carefully grounded in the best
research evidence available, this book stands head and shoulders above the many
management books offering short-term fads, fashions, and therapies of the
moment."

Richard T. Mowday
University of Oregon, former President of the Academy of Management, and former Editor of the Academy of Management Journal

“Huber
gives a compelling account of the future landscape that many managers have to
face today. Filled with solid academic research laced with real-world examples,
Huber not only conveys the shape of that landscape, but also the roadmap to
navigate it.”

Kathleen M. Eisenhardt
Stanford University and coauthor of Competing on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos

"George
Huber makes an important contribution with profound insights on what the future
firm will look like. It will be congruent with its environment. To realize
opportunities from continuing advances in science and technology and
environmental complexity, the successful firm in the future will be especially
good at gaining environmental intelligence, learning and integrating knowledge,
and being innovative and flexible.  This
is not a fanciful prophesy; it is a necessary logical conclusion that Huber
draws from an extensive body of scientific knowledge."

Andrew H. Van de Ven
University of Minnesota, Past President of the Academy of Management, and coauthor of Organizational Change and Innovation Processes

"Huber's The
Necessary Nature of Future Firms is a remarkable tour de force of
state-of-the-art knowledge about organizational structures, processes and
performance. The book integrates what we know about fundamental phenomenon in
organizations such as decision making, learning, and innovation. What is
exceptional about the book is Huber's ability to integrate research findings to
develop thoughtful guidelines for managers about how to design their firms to
be effective, both now and in the future."

Linda Argote
Carnegie Mellon University, Editor in Chief of Organization Science, and author of Organizational Learning: Creating, Retaining and Transferring Knowledge

"The book is written in an easy style and has no management jargon. It also provides flow charts and appendices wherever necessary to facilitate understanding. The notes at the end of each chapter and selected references at the end of the book provide an inquisitive reader a rich source to dig deeper. The book also provides interim and final summaries of each chapter, which greatly enhances recapitulation. the book is mainly meant for managers and graduate management students."

Amit Dhiman
Indian Institute of Management
  •  
Key features
  • Very few books call out the BROAD RANGE OF SPECIFIC FEATURES (PRACTICES AND STRUCTURAL ARRANGEMENTS) THAT WILL BE DIFFERENT IN FUTURE FIRMS.  
  • Very few books are CONSIDERABLY INFORMED BY SCIENCE AND SCHOLARSHIP, AND YET ARE ALSO WRITTEN IN A STYLE THAT WILL APPEAL TO PRACTICING MANAGERS.   
  • Besides being informed by the author's scholarship (the contents of over 600 references are noted – in context – in the Endnotes), the book is informed by the author's interviews with over 100 middle and upper level managers about changes in their organizations and from the author's having taught "Organizational Change and Redesign" to over 700 Executive MBAs during the last decade.  
  • For faculty, and for students needing to do projects or otherwise pursue course-related material more extensively, the books extensive Endnotes and over 600 references would be very attractive.  

Sample Materials & Chapters

Preface