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Levers of Control: How Managers Use Innovative Control Systems to Drive Strategic Renewal Hardcover – November 1, 1994

ISBN-13: 978-0875845593 ISBN-10: 0875845592 Edition: 1st

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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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #230,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 3, 2000
Format: Hardcover
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 By David W. Taylor on September 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
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 By Trevor Cross on February 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
The book does a fantastic job of describing the levers theoretically, but doesn't do quite as much in the way of real world explanation of how to fix, manipulate or otherwise build levers that work.

That said, I was looking for a piece that was more theoretical in nature. Skip this if that is not your goal or if you do not approach topics by first building a theoretical framework.

Here are a few key points:

Definitional:
Belief Systems - what the organization has set out to do, to achieve
Boundary Systems - what an individual part of the organization must never do (ex: 10 commandments)

Concept 1:
P. 53 - "Organizational participants can view boundary systems either as either constraining or liberating... a lack of rules can be deceiving. At first, subordinates believe they have freedom of action, but they quickly learn that superiors hold them accountable to unwritten rules that can only be determined by trial and error. The result is uncertainty and a reluctance to act."
Also,
P. 54 - "If improperly set, strategic boundaries can hinder adaptation to changing product, market, technology, and environmental conditions. Boundary systems make it risky for employees to search for new opportunities ouside acceptable domains of activity. Rigid strategic boundaries make it clear to employees that using company resources to experiment in proscribed product markets is subject to discovery and punishment."

Thoughts: These concepts point to the idea that structure is everything inspiring people to fulfill actions in a particular manner that is counter-intuitive to the concept of the ID.

Concept 2:
P. 81-83 talks about dysfunctional side effects.
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