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My name is John Child.
I work at the University of
Birmingham where, until recently,
I held the chair of commerce.
And now I've become
What I want to do in this talk is to
look at how the thinking, or theory
if you like, about the
design of organization
has evolved over the last
100 years, approximately.
And I want to really
cover three key questions.
The first question
is how this thinking
about the design of organizations
has changed as the context has
changed over time.
The second question is whether
any of the older or sometimes
thinking on organization
still has relevance for us today.
And then I want to move on,
in the last part of my talk,
to look at what current thinking is
about the design of organization.
The context in which we've
had to think about the design
of organizations has changed a lot.
If we go back to the
beginning of such thinking,
this is a time when firms were
beginning to become large, some
of them, like the sort of
General Motors of this world
and the General Electrics.
But at the same time, these
were environments for business
which were relatively stable.
They were often protected by tariff
barriers and protected markers.
There was quite a lot of emphasis
on standardization of production.
There wasn't very
much or very frequent
change on the whole of products.
So you think of the Model T Ford,
how many years that was produced
is a very standard car without
much change in its design,
without very much innovation.
There was quite an emphasis in
the early days on efficiency
and a lot of attention to trying
to gain economies of scale
as the main sort of emphasis
of strategy of firms.
And also this time, partly because
of the large scale of firms, partly
because you had a growing difficulty
of owners continuing to manage
these large firms, you
had the development
of professional management, which
was very keen to develop what it
called a systematic and scientific
approach to what it did,
body of knowledge that it
could claim for its own
and which would help
to maintain its status.
And this is sometimes associated
with the development called
the divorce of
ownership and control,
that managers were coming
into control of organizations,
were often becoming more detached
or divorced from that control.
And ownership itself was spreading
more and more among institutions
and small shareholders and so on.