HR MANAGER'S BOOKSHELF<br> Change, strategy and alien intelligence

Several books have recently been published that deal with subjects on the minds of CEOs and other senior managers. They also offer insights for HR leaders who want to be close to business issues, directions and strategies.

Breaking the Code of Change
Ed. by Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria, 507 pages (2000), Harvard Business School Press. At bookstores or 1-800-565-5758,
Can effective change be achieved by aiming at short-term economic benefit, or does it require long-haul organizational capability building? This book, structured as a debate on the issue, was previewed in a Harvard Business Review article (May-June 2000), “Cracking the code of change.”

That article began: “Until now, change in business has been an either-or proposition: either quickly create economic value for shareholders or patiently develop an open, trusting corporate culture long term. But new research indicates that combining these ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ approaches can radically transform the way businesses change.”

The authors, business professors at Harvard, contribute the opening chapter, with the basic definitions:

•Theory E has as its purpose the creation of economic value, often expressed as shareholder value. Its focus is on formal structure and systems. It is driven from the top with help from consultants and financial incentives. Change is planned and programmatic.

•Theory O has as its purpose the development of the organization’s human capability to implement strategy and to learn about the effectiveness of changes made. Its focus is on the development of a high-commitment culture. It consists of high involvement, and consultants are relied on far less to drive change. Change is emergent, less planned and programmatic.

Chapters on many facets of the question follow, written by a “who’s who” of management theorists and researchers:

•The purpose of change, with contributors including Michael Jensen and Peter Senge;

•Leadership of change, including Jay Conger and Warren Bennis;

•Focus of change, including Jay Galbraith and Larry Hirschhorn;

•Planning of change, including Karl Weick;

•Motivation for change, including Edward Lawler;

•Consultants’ role in change, including Robert Schaffer and Robert Miles; and

•Research on change, including Chris Argyris.

This is a scholarly, yet readable book aimed at senior managers, consultants and HRM audiences. In the end, Beer and Nohria argue for integrating the different change processes: “Leaders who can get past the tyranny of the either-or and embrace the paradox of and/also are most likely to break the code of change — whether they find themselves in a situation of reversing economic decline or in a situation of capitalizing on economic growth.”

The Strategy-Focused Organization
By Robert Kaplan and David Norton, 400 pages (2001), Harvard Business School Press. At bookstores or 1-800-565-5758,
Kaplan and Norton’s 1996 bestseller The Balanced Scorecard influenced general managers and senior HR leaders with its approach to using several sets of measures — financial, customer, business processes and learning and growth — to enhance overall performance of the organization.

This followup title reports on “the results of 10 years of learning and research into more than 200 companies that have implemented the Balanced Scorecard...These organizations have used the scorecard to create an entirely new performance management framework that puts strategy at the center of key management processes and systems.”

Five key principles are delineated:

•translate the strategy into operational terms;

•align the organization to the strategy;

•make strategy everyone’s everyday job;

•make strategy a continual process; and

•mobilize change through strong, effective leadership.

In-depth case studies in the book feature companies such as AT&T Canada, Nova Scotia Power, Mobil, CIGNA and Sears as well as governments and health-care organizations.

After the Internet: Alien Intelligence
By James Martin, 479 pages (2000), Capital Press,
While computers and the Internet have already transformed the way business is conducted, James Martin suggests it’s only the beginning.

“Today’s Internet is slow and crude. It is only beginning to have an effect on how most people live. But it has already caused a revolution in the way business is conducted,” he writes.

This book will be of interest to readers in HR and other fields who wonder how computers are likely to change the business world next. Martin is a Pulitzer Prize nominee and has written 100 textbooks.

He suggests computers are developing an alien intelligence that is radically different from human intelligence and more powerful.

“We define alien intelligence as processes executed on a computer that are so complex that a human can neither follow the logic step-by-step nor come to the same result by other means. We couldn’t write a conventional program to obtain the same result.”

In some ways, it already exists. “When I sign on to the Internet bookstore, the software greets me by saying, ‘Hello, James Martin. Here’s a list of items we think you’ll like.’ It has noted the books that I buy or examine in detail, and learned about my taste in books.”

But the author suggests this is just the beginning. “We have started a fast-moving tiger, a process of inventing a global civilization. Some corporations will ride the beast, achieving spectacular results, fully realizing that they cannot get off lest they be eaten.

No GutsvNo Glory
By David Olive, 326 pages (2000), McGraw-Hill Ryerson. At bookstores or 1-800-565-5758,
This book describes “how Canada’s greatest CEOs built their empires” as seen by National Post writer David Olive. The profiles are:

•Garfield and Galen Weston: the world’s biggest baker, and the turnaround panache of a merchant prince who defended his legacy at Loblaws;

•Max Ward: from bush pilot to operator of Wardair;

•Isadore Sharp: through trial and error, he built the Four Seasons hotel chain;

•Paul Reichmann: the rise and fall and rise of the world’s greatest property developer;

•Andrew Sarlos: adventures in high finance with the nicest guy on Bay Street;

•Frank Stronach: the restless drive of Magna’s auto-parts czar;

•Laurent Beaudoin: how a snowmobile maker achieved world dominance in mass transit and civil aviation; and

•Robert Scrivener and John Roth: how one man played midwife to a multinational, and another got Nortel to move at the speed of light.

Values Shift
By John B. Izzo and Pam Withers, 228 pages (2000), Prentice Hall Canada,
“A new work ethic is emerging — a new set of values about work and its place in our lives. These new values will reshape how we operate and what companies must do to attract and keep good people.”

Canadian writers John Izzo and Pam Withers review four major forces that have changed how we see work: family, economy, society and technology. Then they probe six “expectations of the new workforce”:

•balance and synergy;

•work as a noble cause;

•personal growth and development;


•community at work; and


According to the authors, these expectations cut across three generations: baby boomers, generation X and the Net generation. Readers will find examples from numerous organizations to help develop practical approaches for retaining and inspiring their people, including Intel, Microsoft, Ciba Specialty Chemicals, Kinko’s and VanCity.

Ray Brillinger is a senior consultant with the IBM Consulting Group. He provides change management, business transformation and organizational effectiveness services to client organizations. He can be reached at (905) 316-4646 or
[email protected].

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