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The Fiefdom Syndrome: The Turf Battles That Undermine Careers and Companies - And How to Overcome Them [Kindle Edition]

Robert Herbold
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The turf battles and territorial “fiefdoms” that undermine so many companies—and how to break through them, by long-term Microsoft COO Robert J. Herbold

There is a potentially infectious condition inside virtually all organizations that can cause more damage than economic downturns, management upheavals, and global business shifts. Until now it has had no name. But it has impacted some of the world’s leading companies, including Procter & Gamble, IBM, Coca-Cola, and Microsoft.

Robert J. Herbold, the COO who brought corporate discipline to a young Microsoft organization and helped to transform it into a mature global giant, calls it the Fiefdom Syndrome. And it happens at organizations large and small, profit and nonprofit, at the individual level as well as the group and divisional level. It can undercut a company’s effectiveness, and in extreme cases it has shaken entire industries and taken down major corporations.

The problem begins when individuals, groups, or divisions—out of fear—seek to make themselves vital to their organizations and, unconsciously or sometimes deliberately, try to protect their turf and others’ perceptions of them. It is a natural human tendency, dating back to the origins of our species, but if it isn’t managed properly, the damage caused by these “fiefdoms” can spell the death knell of what should have been a strong and vital organization.

People who create fiefdoms can become dangerously insular, losing perspective on what is happening in the world outside their own control. They hoard resources. They are determined to do things in their own way, often duplicating or complicating what should be streamlined throughout the company, leading to runaway costs, increased bureaucracy, and a loss of agility and speed.

In The Fiefdom Syndrome, Bob Herbold exposes the myriad ways such fiefdoms can compromise a company’s effectiveness—as well as show what managers, companies, and individuals can do to break up fiefdoms and conquer the turf wars. Illustrated with countless examples from Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, IBM, and other corporations, The Fiefdom Syndrome is an essential tool in every manager’s toolkit.

Editorial Reviews Review

Is your company threatened by turf battles, shut out of key data sources by territorial "lords," or ravaged by hundreds of "micro-companies?" If so, your organization may be suffering from a potentially crippling case of "Fiefdom Syndrome." Robert Herbold, former COO of Microsoft, presents a wealth of case studies from the usual (and always interesting) suspects--IBM, Proctor and Gamble, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart--to illustrate an affliction that affects for-profit and non-profit organizations alike.

Herbold identifies why fiefdoms are a problem, where they typically arise in companies--finance, HR, marketing, IT, virtually in most teams and departments--and offers solutions for preventing fiefdoms from cropping up and how to dissolve existing turf control. In an approachable manner, he demonstrates how discipline, creativity, and enforcement are keys to preventing the spread of fiefdoms: "The basic human tendency to want to control one's destiny or turf runs counter to discipline in an organization. If the CEO or the manager of a unit lets people act on their own, the company will soon fall into disarray."

Like headaches, fiefdoms can become a persistent problem and if left untreated, can send organizations into an endless loop of deteriorating health and repeated investigations into the cause. Prudent companies will take Herbold's advice and learn how to prevent and treat their little fiefdom problem. --E. Brooke Gilbert

From Publishers Weekly

Herbold, a corporate consultant and former COO for Microsoft, finds "fiefdoms"—individuals or groups who control the flow of information out of their offices as a way of gaining agency or power—one of the most dangerous problems a company can face, and he sees them everywhere. Even the collapse of Enron, he argues, can be attributed to the actions of a small cabal in the finance department. The insight isn't quite as groundbreaking as he makes it out to be, however, and the proposed solutions will likely strike readers with even a minimum of substantial work experience as equally obvious. Much of the advice is the sort of boilerplate ("continually strengthen the talent pool") that can be found in nearly all business books, though Herbold's enthusiasm for standardized reporting and evaluation practices is possibly more zealous than his peers'. Illustrative anecdotes drawn from his corporate background do liven things up somewhat, but they also create an emphasis on industries involving product sales. Tantalizing hints about the problems fiefdoms create in other fields, such as NGOs and government bureaucracies, are left largely unexplored, diminishing the potential for generating broader interest.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 533 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385510675
  • Publisher: Crown Business (August 24, 2004)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000FC1VOM
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #630,513 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How turf battles undermine careers and companies October 24, 2004
This is a much needed book. The rise of the "individual" above the organization or team has caused more companies to fail to reach their potential than perhaps anything else. The book starts with the premise that there are three basic human tendencies that seem to result in fiefdoms:

1. We have an innate need to control the data or information that reflects on our work.

2. We have a natural desire to be independent and in control of our destiny.

3. We have a natural tendency to exaggerate the quality of our work and its importance to the organization.

I have no reason to doubt these basics of the human condition, and certainly both see this in practice and experience it myself. The rest of the book is then about how to solve for these tendencies and create an organization that is more effective.

He outlines seven disciplines of the well-run corporation:

1. The discipline of creating lean global processes and accessible data company-wide

2. The discipline of standard templates and data

3. The discipline of inspection

4. The discipline of avoiding over confidence

5. The discipline of avoiding fragmentation

6. The discipline of constantly learning new skills

7. The discipline of avoiding bottlenecks

Each of these is described in detail, including examples and pitfalls, and suggestions for improvement. He also discusses 6 disciplines of people development, critical to ensure that the problems that result in fiefdoms are overcome. His comments on the often poor differentiation and reward systems among employees in regards to performance are well documented and laid out.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A key book for all organizations... October 10, 2004
I recently picked up a book at the library titled The Fiefdom Syndrome by Robert J. Herbold. This is an excellent book on understanding and eliminating corporate turf battles.

Chapter list: Introduction; The Problem With Fiefdoms; Fiefdoms And Human Nature; The Seven Disciplines Of The Well-Run Corporation; The Six People Disciplines; Creativity And Fiefdoms; Balancing Discipline And Creativity; Achieving Discipline; Fostering Creativity; How Fiefdoms Affect Strategy And Execution; How Fiefdoms Hamstring Mergers And Acquisitions; Communication As A Tool To Fight Fiefdoms; Beating The Fiefdom Syndrome; Index

If you've worked in corporate America for any length of time, you've experienced the fiefdom syndrome. A manager runs their department as if they were a wholly separate company, and decisions are made to benefit the department, not the corporation. This type of behavior, if not confronted and eliminated, leads to less than optimal performance for the organization. In extreme cases, it can kill the department AND the corporation. Herbold does a great job of both cataloging the behaviors that indicate the existence of fiefdoms, as well as the steps of well-run organizations that prevent them from forming.

This book should be required reading for management in large corporations, regardless of whether they think they have problems or not (and you probably do have them). Smaller companies would do well to take these lessons to heart in order to successfully grow without sabotaging one's success.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Key Book for Any Organization: The Fiefdom Syndrome October 7, 2004
Well-written, from the standpoint of a well-known COO, Robert Herbold's book is vital for organizations, governments, as well as small-business owners. The temptation to control the flow of information can happen to anyone and it's important to recognize it when it begins to take shape. It's a wonderful tool for people who want to work well with others, overcome the obstacle of fiefdoms, and be successful in almost any job that requires teamwork.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A TO-THE-POINT GUIDE ON HOW TO DEFEAT FIEFDOMS December 20, 2005
Fiefdoms are an organizational disease afflicting all types of organizations at all levels; fiefdoms can even be found withing fiefdoms. It's a human tendency. Herbold shows how to fight fiefdoms using process, behavior and people disciplines balanced with fostering creativity and innovation to better serve customers (a chapter is devoted to how to foster creativity).

Leadership is highlighted as a central factor for success. Herbold also provides guidelines and illustrations of how to make the process, behavior and people disciplines a reality. Additionally, he discusses how fiefdoms affect strategy and execution and hinder mergers and acquisitions. A solid chapter is devoted to communication as a tool to fight fiefdoms. The book wraps up with a summary of the advantages of a fiefdomless organization and the benefits to individuals.

This book is loaded with specific actions and guidelines. It is deep but not dense. It is written in a to-the-point style, using interesting-to-read cases woven into the text to make and enrich the message. This is a practical and well written book. Very highly recommended!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read for C-level execs of start-ups July 29, 2005
There is a lot you can learn from this book and enjoy doing so. Having 15 years of IT experience, I agree with many aspects of what the author calls a "Fiefdom" (eg, individuals or groups that tend to isolate themselves from the larger organization under the cover of seemingly-superior management styles leading to the decline and end of an otherwise-good company). The author's experience (especially his tenure at Microsoft) is very interesting, but I somehow was not totally satisfied with his suggestions on how to overcome this problems. What sometimes the author sees as a fiefdom is actually not so if you take into consideration that not all countries go about doing business like an Western corporation. However, if you are an Western business and don't want to let your organizations structure and dynamics isolate you from the rest of the world outside (were a larger percentage of customers live) then this book is a great guide.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars He Did it again
Herbold again put the cookies on the lowest shelf. Fiefdoms are real and active in many business and social situations.
Published 10 months ago by John H. West
4.0 out of 5 stars Good if you need it
I found myself in a world of fiefdoms, and this book helped me create a few compelling arguments for improving things. Read more
Published on May 11, 2012 by Pete
5.0 out of 5 stars How too much independent & non-standardisation can sabotage...
Bob Herbold, a management consultant, was EVP & COO for Microsoft between 1994 and 2001, and for 26 years before that a marketing executive at Procter & Gamble. Read more
Published on February 26, 2012 by Mr. Andrew Evans
4.0 out of 5 stars Confronting corporate turf battles
The chosen subtitle for this work indicates that Herbold's goal was to discuss "the turf battles that undermine careers and companies, and how to overcome them", but the author... Read more
Published on June 3, 2008 by Erik Gfesser
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiefdom
Herbold is a genius for describing problems with a growing organization: whether a for profit or non-profit. Read more
Published on February 14, 2008 by Ronald E. Robinson
1.0 out of 5 stars What's wrong with corporate America?
Herbold is correct in his assertion that fiefdom behavior impares the profitability of corporate America. However, I think his methods may be worse than the fiefdoms. Read more
Published on August 2, 2007 by M. Cullinan
3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty good, especially good for stories, but won't change your life
"The Fiefdom Syndrom" is a good book on bad work habits, organized by different kinds of "fiefdoms," which are political cadres that fight change to retain control. Read more
Published on June 11, 2006 by John H. Kaplan
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read for C-level execs of start-ups
There is a lot you can learn from this book and enjoy doing so. Having 15 years of IT experience, I agree with many aspects of what the author calls a "Fiefdom" (eg,... Read more
Published on July 29, 2005 by Aras Geylani
4.0 out of 5 stars A framework everyone in business can use
In this book, Herbold sets up a framework that all in a business setting can use. Applying the fiefdom framework will help anyone be a better manager or follower. Read more
Published on December 27, 2004 by Nicholas Feliccia
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More About the Author

Robert J. Herbold

Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (Retired), Microsoft Corporation

Managing Director, Herbold Group, LLC

Robert J. (Bob) Herbold, retired executive vice president and chief operating officer of Microsoft Corporation, is the Managing Director of The Herbold Group, LLC, a consulting business focused on profitability, strategic, and operational issues. Herbold is also serves on the Board of Directors of Agilent Technologies and of Neptune Orient Shipping Lines.

Herbold joined Microsoft in 1994 as executive vice president and chief operating officer, retiring in 2001. During his tenure in that position, he was responsible for finance, corporate marketing, market research, manufacturing and distribution, information systems, human resources, and public relations. During his 7 years as COO, Microsoft experienced a four fold increase in revenue and a seven fold increase in profits. From 2001 to 2003, Herbold worked half-time for Microsoft as Executive Vice President assisting in government, industry, and customer issues.

Prior to joining Microsoft, Herbold spent 26 years at The Procter & Gamble Company. In his last 5 years with P&G, he served as senior vice president of advertising and information services. In that role, he was responsible for the company's worldwide marketing/brand management operations as well as all marketing related services such as media and retail promotion programs. He was also responsible for the worldwide information technology and market research organizations.

Herbold's experiences at Microsoft and Procter & Gamble were the basis of an article he authored in the January, 2002 issue of the Harvard Business Review entitled "Inside Microsoft: Balancing Discipline and Creativity", which focuses on how companies can improve their profitability and agility. In 2004 he authored a book published by Random House titled The Fiefdom Syndrome; The Turf Battles that Undermine Careers and Companies - and How to Overcome Them. In 2007 his second book was published by McGraw Hill titled: Seduced by Success; How the Best Companies Survive the 9 Traps of Winning. In February, 2011 his latest book was published by John Wiley & Sons titled: What's Holding You Back; Ten Bold Steps that Define Gutsy Leaders.

Herbold has a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the University of Cincinnati and both a master's degree in mathematics and a Ph.D. in computer science from Case Western Reserve University. Herbold is a member of the Board of Trustees of The Heritage Foundation and is an Adjunct Professor in the Business School at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He is also the President of The Herbold Foundation, which is primarily focused on providing college scholarships to science and engineering students.


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