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Clockspeed : Winning Industry Control in the Age of Temporary Advantage Paperback – October 1, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Based on extensive research he conducted at M.I.T.'s Sloan School of Management, professor Charles H. Fine determined that fruit flies hold the key to the future of business. Not the insects themselves, actually, but the way geneticists study their extraordinarily condensed life spans to gain insight into the much more drawn-out human existence. In like manner, Fine suggests that industries with a very rapid evolutionary rate, or clockspeed, be examined for information that will benefit businesses of all kinds--as well as national economic systems, universities, and even religious institutions--although any edge that emerges may, without additional work, prove to be fleeting. In Clockspeed: Winning Industry Control in the Age of Temporary Advantage, Fine lays out his resultant theories of business genetics. He focuses on "fruit fly industries" such as personal computers and information-entertainment providers and the lessons he says can be learned by dissecting their internal processes, product development procedures, and organizational arrangements. He then proposes ways that other companies can utilize the positive patterns of industry structure that appear. Those whose eyes do not glaze over at the mere thought of calculating "capital equipment obsolesce rates" should find this absorbing and thought-provoking. --Howard Rothman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In propounding a "theory of business genetics," Fine, a professor of management at MIT, analyzes factors that determine corporate evolution, then outlines approaches to aid strategic decision making. For Fine, industries change at different rates, or "clockspeeds," depending on differing opportunities for innovation and competition, as is the case in the animal kingdom. Changing relationships and their causes often seem more apparent, he notes, in fast-clockspeed scenarios such as the current computer industry. However, "all advantage is temporary," Fine continues, "and the faster the clockspeed, the more temporary the advantage." Against that background, his main thesis is that design of the supply chain is "the ultimate core competency" for maintaining advantage in business. Fine advocates diligently and continuously studying its dynamics from the standpoints of organization, technology and capability. Citing the case of IBM as a cautionary tale, Fine notes the company's flawed decision to outsource its PC's microprocessor and operating system, with the result that customers are more concerned with the label "Intel Inside" than the actual makeup of their computer. Oriented primarily to specialists (and prospective clients) in the computer industry, Fine's theorizing suffers somewhat from management jargon yet is impressively well tuned.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New edition edition (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0738201537
  • ISBN-13: 978-0738201535
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,122 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Daniel T. Crocker on July 16, 2001
Format: Paperback
It would be a mistake to be employed in some supply chain capacity and *not* read this book. I believe that it offers an intriguing set of solid examples of how incorporating supply chain management into strategy discussions has helped some companies profit at the expense of others.
Some commenters have noted that examples seem anecdotal. I tend to think that Fine's approach here, in going into depth with just a few examples, is a richer basis upon which to draw conclusions. You don't necessarily need a statistically significant sample set in order to gain insights into how to conduct strategy.
I would also take issue with one reviewer's note that it is overly geared towards manufacturing, rather than services. Managing supply chains and conducting make-buy decisions are clearly the province of operations. But shouldn't consulting services develop precisely those areas of expertise in order to assist their biggest clients?
A note of disclosure: I took Fine's course on this subject while at MIT. While I wouldn't trade having been in that graduate seminar for 100 books, if you can't take the course, at least read the book! Doing so brought back the pleasure for me of being in his class.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 5, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book and found it useful. The concepts in this book are widely applicable to a variety of situations. The book addresses many cases in large institutions; however, many of the concepts also can be applied at the project or start-up level. Several concepts in the book are applicable to common situations: 1) Virtual Company: This framework allows one to assess whether a company has enough capability to remain a virtual company or eventually become a "hollow" company. By using the 3-d and the key characteristics frameworks, Prof. Fine provides a good understanding of which areas of the value chain to keep under control. Of course, to retain a very small asset base initially, one could potentially outsource areas where the company does not have the capacity or capability, but should be looking to bring in-house those functions that have been outsourced for capability. 2) Combining the clockspeed concept and the double helix with the "innovator's dilemma" and marketspace concepts generates some useful insights. When the helix starts turning, from a integral solution to a modular form, that is an optimum time to be forming an entrepreneurial company. When the helix is switching back to vertically integrated industry structure, that implies a mature market with consolidation that is not as inducive to entrepreneurship. At the switch from integral to modular, you will see many growing markets. Though the entire market may not grow, the actual marketspaces will grow tremendously and create new value propositions.Read more ›
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By "mpmcdonald" on December 7, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Clockspeed is a good example of the thirst for books on eCommerce. The premise of the book is largely based around a cute concept "clockspeed" with a call to concurrently engineer process, product, and supply chains. All good premises, however, the author does little to tell you how those should fit together in pragmatic terms. The book is most helpful for people in manufacturing where all of the examples are from and not people working in the services markets, where clockspeed has some real meaning. A visit to the authors web site is futher demoralizing as Fine has decided to set up a consulting practice around the concept and book. Overall this is not the best book I've read on working in the electronic economy.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jamie Flinchbaugh on April 20, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has some really interesting threads around supply chain design competency, clockspeed, and learning from industry fruit flies, but the real value of the book is in between all of that. For years, there have been wonderful insights into technology strategy, product architecture, manufacturing strategy, etc. etc. roaming around the halls of MIT and throughout journal articles. The only way to really tap this depth of knowledge is by being there. Charlie has woven these thoughts, ideas, and concepts throughout the book rather seemlessly. If you read the book carefully, and think very hard about some of the nuggets throughout the book, I'm sure it will be worth your time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. McCulloch on May 7, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Clockspeed, Charles Fine intertwines three major themes for businesses that are driven by short product and process lifecycles: 1: no competitive advantage is permanent; 2: no capability exists in a vacuum; 3: organizations must tear down walls and concurrently engineer products, processes and supply chains (capabilities). By managing from a capabilities perspective, looming changes in supply chain pressures become more visible. Corporate DNA mapping (the double-helix of business) provides a view of integration/modularity cycles and their implications to vertical/horizontal industry orientation. Simultaneous design of products, processes and supply chains marks the culmination of an organization's strategic orientation to these concepts, and steers decisions that are critical to make/buy decisions and overall capability planning.

-No Advantage is Permanent
New roles are needed to mine new opportunities. Outsourcing and downsizing with only cost-savings in mind can create critical limits in supply chains. Choosing appropriate strategic capabilities for the core toolbox is the ultimate strategic core competency. Leaders must identify high-value-added capabilities; commodity-destined capabilities and time scales for both.
Three sub-metrics are involved in evaluating clock speed: process, product and organization. Consider obsolescence rates of all three in strategic planning.
Since all advantage is temporary, they key is to repeatedly choose which advantages to cultivate for changing market conditions.
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