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Barbarians to Bureaucrats: Corporate Life Cycle Strategies Paperback – January 14, 1990

4.2 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Excellent provocative thoughts about leadership, which prod the reader to think for oneself rather than accept a simplistic, Atilla-the-Hun -- like answer." Dallas Times Herald

"Thought-provoking . . . . Anyone in a position to influence the direction of their company should make this book a No. 1 priority on his or her reading list." -- Atlanta Journal-Constitution

From the Inside Flap

"One day your sluggish company will taken to the sound of a beating drum and the sight of a competitor approaching at ramming speed. On deck will be a jut-jawed Barbarian....He will hardly blink as his target is ripped asunder, sending Aristocrats, Bureaucrats and their unfortunate shipmates to their corporate death....So goes Mr. Miller's tale, from which we can all profit." The Wall Street Journal

Barbarians to Bureaucrats presents a brilliant new solution to a stubborn old business problem: how to halt a company's descent into wasteful, stifling bureaucracy. Lawrence M. Miller, a management consultant for such corporate giants as Xerox and 3M, argues that corporations, like civilizations, have a natural life cycle, and that by identifying the stage your company is in, and the leaders associated with it, you can avert decline and continue to thrive.

Every company begins with the compelling new vision of a Prophet and the aggressive leadership of an iron-willed Barbarian, who implements the Prophet's ideas. New techniques and expansions are pushed through by the Builder and the Explorer, but the growth spawned by these managers can easily stagnate when the Administrator sacrifices innovation to order, and the Bureaucrat imposes tight control. And just as in civilizations, the rule of the Aristocrat, out of touch with those who do the real work, invites rebellion -- from employees, customers, and stockholders. It will take the Synergist, a business leader who balances creativity with order, to restore vitality and insure future growth.

Executives from major corporations have already put the powerful insights of Barbarians to Bureaucrats into practice to regenerate their own companies. Now you can use this brilliant, lucid, and dazzlingly original book to put your company -- and your career -- back on track.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett (January 14, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449905268
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449905265
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #100,459 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Excellent summary of identifying, working with, and maneuvering around the types of executives that inhabit today's corporate environment. With valid parallels drawn to both business and world history, this book helps the reader place themselves and those with whom they work into personality types, that eventually create a corporate personality. More importantly, the book outlines the progression/regression characteristics and tools for moving from one personality type to another (either personally, or as a business), or enhancing one type with characteristics from another.
Well worth reading for anyone in middle management, and required understanding for top executives.
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Format: Paperback
Excellent book. With so many "here's what's wrong with your company" books available, this is one of the best. Not only does the author suggest what's wrong...i.e., which part of the life cycle is your company in, he tells you how to do something about it.
If I'd only been able to read just one book, I am glad I choose this one.
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I found the information in Barbarians to Bureaucrats fascinating. It very much parallels the business life cycles of 100 years ago, during the time of publication (1989) and even today. What it goes to show is that while the work and technology may change, the management and leadership styles stay the same. I believe if you couple this book with Collins' How The Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In, you can see the undoings of many of the major airlines, Lehman Brothers, Enron, Healthsouth, and many others interwoven between the texts. I rated it four stars as I felt like some of the links to the stories throughout civilization were a little far-reaching, and that many of the characteristics could have been plucked from these stories. Enjoyed it; though out of print managers and leaders will find it relevant still today.
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Format: Paperback
By comparing the lifecycles of corporations to those of civilizations, this book helps to explain how all sorts of organizations, not just corporations, can become "sick" through bureaucracy and poor leadership. This book helped me to understand why there is so much institutional opposition to correcting even localized corruption and dissolution in a large, bureaucratic GOVERNMENT institution. It helped save my sanity. I with the author would write a similar book dealing with governmental organizations.
Another book which may help if you are trying to "fight city hall" is Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority.
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The book by Lawrence Miller provides an inside view of the 7 different styles of leaderships. First of all, I found this easy to read and a very good learning material for my Master class. At the same time, this is a book I will keep reviewing in moving through the corporate ladder and work with different supervisors or co-workers. It taught the ways to recognize the levels of leadership and how to manage conflict, approach and collaborate. I think this is very important for anyone in a large corporation and wants to move up. I have seen already how this book has helped during my work as well as in personal situations. Big thumps up to Mr. Miller!
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Format: Paperback
It's not necessarily that as a company grows from the garage into the boardroom that bad things happen . . . it's that some things are inevitable and are a function of growth.
This book sumarizes the multiple facets involved in such growth and allows the reader to compare the growth cycle of companies at varying stages. It's impact on people, org behavior, culture, awareness and other areas that the "garage shop" does not need to consider at early stages. It's a key read and assessment as companies find themselves in transition from a heavily entrepreneurial spirit to a more entrenched corporate being and notes many of the patterns such growth requires. Read between the lines and you may find companies who are currently faltering because of a lack of transition mindset to allow them to sustain managed growth or the new "size." Overall, it's a great academic read.
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I've spent most of my career working for large corporations and ever since I read this book, I find myself noticing things I never really noticed before. I feel the book is really spot on in describing the change in behavior of an organization as it grows. When you consider it in the context of all the corporate scandals over the past few years, it becomes even more relevant. It really foretells of corporate excess and creative accounting to prop up the bottom line as a company enters the "aristocratic" phase.

I really recommend the book, especially if you have spent a lot of time working in corporate America.
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I read this book as part of a masters program on project leadership. While the book pretty clearly identifies the different types of management and business organizations, it seems to suggest that some of these types are necessary depending on the maturity level of the organization. It seems to not really address how some of these types are necessary for organizational success but some actually harm organizations. It was one of the easier books I have read on leadership, because it clearly puts things in simple boxes. I fear the reality of life is a bit less clear.
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