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Competing by Design: The Power of Organizational Architecture [Hardcover]

by David Nadler, David A. Nadler, Mark B. Nadler
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 10, 1997 0195099176 978-0195099171 0
If the defining goal of modern-day business can be isolated to just one item, it would be the search for competitive advantage. And, as everyone in business knows, it's a lot harder than it used to be. On the one hand, competition is more intense than ever--technological innovation, consumer expectations, government deregulation, all combine to create more opportunities for new competitors to change the basic rules of the game. On the other hand, most of the old reliable sources of competitive advantage are drying up: the hallowed strategies employed by GM, IBM, and AT&T to maintain their seemingly unassailable positions of dominance in the 1960s and 70s are as obsolete as the calvary charge. So in this volatile, unstable environment, where can competitive advantage be found?

As David Nadler and Michael Tushman show, the last remaining source of truly sustainable competitive advantage lies in "organizational capabilities": the unique ways each organization structures its work and motivates its people to achieve clearly articulated strategic objectives. For too long, too many managers have thought about "organization" merely in terms of rearranging the boxes and lines on an organizational chart--but as Competing by Design clearly illustrates, organizational strength is found far beyond one-dimensional diagrams. Managers must, argue Nadler and Tushman, understand the concepts and learn the skills involved in designing their organization to exploit their inherent strengths. All the reengineering, restructuring, and downsizing in the world will merely destabilize a company if the change doesn't address the fundamental patterns of performance--and if the change doesn't recognize the unique core competencies of that company. In this landmark volume, the authors draw upon specific cases to illustrate the design process in practice as they provide a set of powerful, yet simple tools, for using strategic organization design to gain competitive advantage. They present a design process, explore key decisions managers face, and list the guiding principles for incorporating the design function as a continuing and integral process in organizations that are looking to the future.

In 1918, Henry Ford's Dearborn assembly plant was the model of the new assembly-line technology. Today, the assembly plant is an aging relic, but, incredibly, the organizational architecture it spawned lives on in steep hierarchies, centralized bureaucracies, and narrowly defined jobs. As companies are coming to realize they can't compete successfully in the 21st century with organizations based on 19th century ideas, Competing by Design shows clearly and persuasively why--and, most importantly how--to harness the power of organizational architecture to unleash the competitive strengths embedded in each organization.

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Editorial Reviews Review

The search for competitive advantage, write management consultants and educators David Nadler and Michael Tushman, is "the defining goal of modern-day business." Competing by Design: The Power of Organizational Architecture, is their guide to reaching that goal through total integration of corporate structure, workplace culture, and employee motivation. Bringing all such processes together into one unified organization, they contend, is as important to a company's future as the architectural unity of the building that houses it.


"Nadler and Tushman's central argument, that 'Competing by Design' is now the most reliable source of corporate advantage, is totally persuasive. They proceed to offer, by example as well as precept, the most comprehensive and sensible guide available on the art and science of organization design. This book is grounded on careful research and should be essential reading for all general managers."--Paul Lawrence, Donham Professor, Emeritus, Harvard Business School

"In this fast-moving marketplace, change is not only required for continued prosperity; it's also very hard work. This book offers both thoughtful insights and explicit ideas about how to go about making constructive changes. It's easy to read, packed with information and filled with useful examples. It's a must read.--Henry Schacht, Chairman and Chief Executive officer, Lucent Technologies, Inc.

"Working with David Nadler for 17 years, I've learned that there is a systematic way to look at our problems and a way to organize structure, people and culture to implement competitive strategies for success. Those principles are concisely described in this book, complete with real world examples."--William F. Buehler, Executive Vice President, Xerox Corp.

"Your only sustainable advantage today may be your organizational capabilities: the ways you organize work and motivate your work force to meet strategic objectives. Competing by Design shows you how to maximize these competitive strengths by redesigning your firm."--Soundveiw Executive Book Summaries

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (July 10, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195099176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195099171
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #364,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Lessons of Design." May 4, 2000
"Today, more and more companies are coming to realize that they can't hope to compete successfully in the twenty-first century with organizations based on nineteenth-century design. Radically different organizational architectures are emerging in much the same fashion as new schools of physical architecture...In order to perform effectively, the new architectures require new collateral technologies. In particular, they demand new leadership skills, new methods for selecting and developing key people, new human resources approaches to assessment and reward, and new techniques for enhancing the organization's capacity for collective learning...In this book, we consider a number of leading companies in the United States and around the world that are developing their own versions of the new architecture.(pp.7-10)."
Throughout this study, David A. Nadler and Michael L. Tushman present a comprehensive, balanced approach to design that recognizes the technical requirements, human dynamics, and strategic demands of successful design in any organization or business unit.
Nadler and Tushman summarize the ten basic themes that capture the essence of this book :
1. Organizational capabilities represent the last truly sustainable source of competitive advantage.
2. Organizational architecture provides a conceptual framework for employing strategic design to develop organizational capabilities.
3. At every level of the organization, design constitutes one of the most powerful tools for shaping performance.
4. Regardless of its scope or scale, there are certain fundamental concepts that apply to design at every level.
5. There is a logical sequence of actions and decisions that applies to the design process at any level of the organization.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Organizational design made feasible June 19, 2001
Competing by design is a great source for for anybody who thinks about organizational design. After having read it, you will never consider "cocktail-napkin" designs again, and you will recognize when you see a design created that way. The book doesn't only explain the basic elements of design, but also the do's and dont's of a design project. The structure of the book is very well-conceived, and the level of detail is just right: Focus on the important steps, best practices and lessons, with enough backup examples, and without boring repetitions or lenghthy explanations. I'm not sure you will sleep better after having read the book, as the size of the design project becomes clear, but you will certainly have the tools to make the process a successful one.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Start July 16, 2001
This is a very good start for Org Design consultants. The book correct addresses the key principles in designing an organization (Chap. 3) and explores the key issues that affect the key crucial design issues (Chap. 4). Don't wait for a "how to" book, this is much more a "what" one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A great book providing a broad overview of the various organization design factors and techniques. These techniques are also embellished with good examples; in fact each chapter begins with an example. Many ideas and theories in org design (such as HPWS, Jay Galbraith's theories, BPR etc) are covered. The authors also give equal if not higher credence to the organization culture, the soft underbelly of organizational design. Several examples of theirs illustrate how even the most well planned designs go completely awry when cultural fit is not taken into consideration in the redesign.
The authors have put their heart and soul into this book and it shows. I own this book and keep referring to it once in a while. The only reason to drop one star is because I would have wished for a little more visuals. It gets pretty dry, especially towards the end.
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