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Management article
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Reference no. 651X
Published by: Harvard Business Publishing
Published in: "Harvard Business Review - OnPoint", 2001

Abstract

This is an enhanced edition of HBR article R00301, originally published in May/June 2000. HBR OnPoint articles save you time by enhancing an original Harvard Business Review article with an overview that draws out the main points and an annotated bibliography that points you to related resources. This enables you to scan, absorb, and share the management insights with others. Today''s fast-paced economy demands that businesses change or die. But few companies manage corporate transformations as well as they would like. The brutal fact is that about 70% of all change initiatives fail. In this article, authors Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria describe two archetypes--or theories--of corporate transformation that may help executives crack the code of change. Theory E is change based on economic value: shareholder value is the only legitimate measure of success, and change often involves heavy use of economic incentives, layoffs, downsizing, and restructuring. Theory O is change based on organizational capability: the goal is to build and strengthen corporate culture. Most companies focus purely on one theory or the other, or haphazardly use a mix of both, the authors say. Combining E and O is directionally correct, they contend, but it requires a careful, conscious integration plan. Beer and Nohria present the examples of two companies, Scott Paper and Champion International, that used a purely E or purely O strategy to create change--and met with limited levels of success. They contrast those corporate transformations with that of UK-based retailer ASDA, which has successfully embraced the paradox between the opposing theories of change and integrated E and O. The lesson from ASDA? To thrive and adapt in the new economy, companies must make sure the E and O theories of business change are in sync at their own organizations.

About

Abstract

This is an enhanced edition of HBR article R00301, originally published in May/June 2000. HBR OnPoint articles save you time by enhancing an original Harvard Business Review article with an overview that draws out the main points and an annotated bibliography that points you to related resources. This enables you to scan, absorb, and share the management insights with others. Today''s fast-paced economy demands that businesses change or die. But few companies manage corporate transformations as well as they would like. The brutal fact is that about 70% of all change initiatives fail. In this article, authors Michael Beer and Nitin Nohria describe two archetypes--or theories--of corporate transformation that may help executives crack the code of change. Theory E is change based on economic value: shareholder value is the only legitimate measure of success, and change often involves heavy use of economic incentives, layoffs, downsizing, and restructuring. Theory O is change based on organizational capability: the goal is to build and strengthen corporate culture. Most companies focus purely on one theory or the other, or haphazardly use a mix of both, the authors say. Combining E and O is directionally correct, they contend, but it requires a careful, conscious integration plan. Beer and Nohria present the examples of two companies, Scott Paper and Champion International, that used a purely E or purely O strategy to create change--and met with limited levels of success. They contrast those corporate transformations with that of UK-based retailer ASDA, which has successfully embraced the paradox between the opposing theories of change and integrated E and O. The lesson from ASDA? To thrive and adapt in the new economy, companies must make sure the E and O theories of business change are in sync at their own organizations.

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