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Levers of Control: How Managers Use Innovative Control Systems to Drive Strategic Renewal [Hardcover]

by Robert Simons
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 1, 1994 0875845592 978-0875845593 1
Based on a ten-year examination of control systems in over 50 U.S. businesses, this book broadens the definition of control and establishes a critical bridge between the disciplines of strategy and accounting and control. In addition to the more traditional diagnostic control systems, Simons identifies three new control systems that allow strategic change: belief systems that communicate core values and provide inspiration and direction, boundary systems that frame the strategic domain and define the limits of freedom, and interactive systems that provide flexibility in adapting to competitive environments and encourage organizational learning. These four control systems, according to Simons, will provide managers with the basic levers for pursuing strategic objectives.

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Levers of Control: How Managers Use Innovative Control Systems to Drive Strategic Renewal + Levers Of Organization Design: How Managers Use Accountability Systems For Greater Performance And Commitment
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (November 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0875845592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0875845593
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #337,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Focus on strategy implementation March 3, 2000
By A Customer
The book is far more interesting than the title suggests. "Levers of control" makes one think of man/woman being reduced to robots directed by the pulling of levers. The book is exactly about the opposite, how one can have his cake and eat it. It provides a practical framework on how to combine opposing forces in managing a company. Opposites like creativity and meeting profit objectives, precise objectives and alertness to the necessasity of changing course, reward and punishment, control and freedom. Some of the insights require reader effort to understand. For example. "Strategic planning is useless to develop strategies. Strategic planning starts once the strategy has been determined." What is meant is this. Long range planning carried out by staff departments trying to involve managers is a waste of time. Real strategies evolve interactively between several layers of managers in the organisation. Once a strategy is determined a plan must be made for implementing it. However the reader has to figure out that strategic planning no longer means strategy development but the development of a plan for strategy implementation, the execution of which has to be monitored. The book covers how to deal with the positive and negative motivations of employees, how it is possible to manage the tension between a budget system (referred to as a diagnostic system) and an action oriented intelligence-gathering system (referred to as an interactive control system). These two "control systems" are combined with two higher level "control systems", the vision and core values on the one hand and clarification of authority, accountability and no-go areas (referred to as boundary systems)on the other. None of these "control systems" are original. Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
One of the key concepts in this book is how difficult it is to balance the company's need for predictable results with its need for innovation. How do you stay on track while being able to identify new opportunities? Dr. Simons emphasizes the scarcity of management attention and the importance of realizing there are too many "good ideas" to pursue. The countervailing levers he has identified, allow management to reduce risk in the right areas thus freeing the organization to achieve higher levels of productivity. Great book for seasoned leaders responsible for designing and implementing strategy.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Verbose and Obscure February 24, 2008
I was looking forward to reading this book but gave up after the first few chapters. The book starts off on solid footing but quickly shifts into a maze of verbosity so cumbersome that eventually I gave up. For example, if you like sentences such as "belief systems empower and expand opportunity seeking" or "By guiding an organization's search behavior, interactive control systems may divert attention from cues that would enable successful adaptation", then by all means, go ahead and buy this book. Indeed, the author makes some great points but they are camouflaged due to a dense and cumbersome writing style. I was taught that clear writing leads to clear thinking, and vice-versa. The author has many solid insights, and I wish I could have read this book to the finish, but I just couldn't get through it.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I read this book when it was first published in 1994 and recently re-read it, curious to see how well it has held up. My conclusion? Very well indeed. What I find especially noteworthy is the fact that, only decade ago, there was nowhere near the understanding and appreciation of innovation that we have today. As I compose this brief commentary, Amazon offers 40,135 books on the general subject and 8,707 on innovation management. That is amazing.

In any event, Robert Simons wrote this book in order to explain "how managers use innovative control systems to drive strategic renewal." There is a paradox involving innovation that has always fascinated me: That innovation initiatives are most productive and lucrative when launched and then sustained within a stable (albeit flexible) environment. In other words, innovative thinking needs order, structure, discipline, etc. to which it can respond. There had to be a GE for Jack Welch to "blow up" when Reginald Jones selected him to become its CEO. The same was true of IBM when Lou Gerstner became its CEO. Moreover, another paradox, organizational renewal - if not transformation - requires control systems (key phrase) that are themselves innovative. In this volume, Simons focuses primarily on "the informational aspects of management control systems - the levers managers use to transmit and process inf0ormation within organizations. For the discussion to follow, I adopt the following definition of management control systems: [begin italics] management control systems are the formal, information-based routines and procedures managers use to maintain or alter patterns for organizational activities. [end italics]" More than a decade ago, Simons saw the need for a new theory of control that recognizes the need to balance competing demands.
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