Thursday, January 12, 2012

Will the Corporation Survive?

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The corporation was established approximately in the 1870’s; since that time, until recently, five assumptions were the norm The Corporation was the master and the employee was the servant. The Corporation was the only means of livelihood for the employee. Lowering transactional costs was of paramount importance; everything in the production process was done under one roof. Customers had little information and the corporation was all-knowledgeable. The customer needed the corporation to make the best decision and brand-loyalty was of key importance. Technology was specific to its individual industry.


Since 170, things have changed. The means of production is knowledge. The knowledgeable worker is the means to more capital and very valuable to the corporation. The knowledge worker is not seen as a servant or subordinate but as an equal partner and part of the value chain.


Now, instead of employees being totally loyal to the company store, more and more employees work on a contract or consulting basis. Some knowledge employees will market their skills and knowledge to different organizations.


Specialization produces consistency and better product quality. Therefore, transactional costs are being weighed against product reliability. Also, because of improved communication and the reduction in the cost of communication, knowledge can be dispersed readily and many major job elements can be accomplished through outsourcing.


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Again, with the wealth of information available on the internet, consumers are becoming more and more knowledgeable. They no longer need to be totally dependent on the wisdom and research of the corporation.


Technologies are no longer remaining specific to a given industry. The example that Bell labs actually developed the transistor, which had little application for its own industry but launched Sony and the Japanese into consumer electronics is proof of shared technology.


As discussed in the previous article, “The Future of the Company-A Matter of Choice”, hiring and keeping the knowledgeable employee is key to the success of companies. Today, it cannot be done simply by making promises of monetary gain; some of these promises cannot be kept as evidenced by stock market losses. The knowledgeable employee wants respect and recognition for his knowledge and expertise in his talent area. He wants freedom and executive license to perform his job without being controlled


To accomplish the benefits of transactional cost while maintaining better part consistency, GM began outsourcing for parts etc. They even joined other automakers in a buying co-op to strengthen their buyer power for parts from suppliers. Toyota also uses outside suppliers for parts but not in a random way. Toyota maintains buyer power by choosing only two suppliers for any part forces them to have the lowest price and pushes them to have higher quality. Toyota has become so successful a low cost, high quality manufacturing that they have started marketing their own philosophy called the “Toyota Way”.


Part of the lack of confidence in the survival of corporations is the increasing headlines announcing the failures of top CEO’s. This article suggests that it is not the individuals who are failing but the corporate structure itself.


Some large corporations are dissecting themselves into separate business units within one company, establishing separate units for geographic specialization. Another approach is having not one single individual as the top of the corporate ladder, but a number of executives each working as the head of individual business groups. These key executives then report to one another to strategize together for the common good.


Top management is becoming the corporation, recognizing that no employee is really dependent upon the company’s existence. Rather, the company will utilize outsourcing for the gaining the most knowledgeable talent and will run in a lean, very flexible structure.


The corporation established in 1870 no longer has the same attributes and assumptions. All of that is changing. The corporations that will survive will value their employees with respect and keep them with creativity and empowerment. Since consumers are more and more knowledgeable, the corporation has a higher responsibility for product quality and reliability. Products are becoming readily available and smaller companies can effectively put their merchandise before the consumers with less marketing by way of the internet. Incumbents should anticipate numerous entrants into the market and recognize their chances of survival will be enhanced by improved communication and market exposure. Therefore, companies must not only maintain good quality but must also keep their cost low to fend off the competition. Communication that is making information available to the consumers is also making the sharing of technologies a simple and inexpensive reality for corporations. Shared technology can minimize some of the expense of product research and development and those savings can help make the corporation more efficient.


The corporation of the future may not require massive building to house numerous employees. It also will not be a huge multi-tiered organization. It will function with an awareness of many 1870’s concepts but with an understanding of the dramatic impact of this information age. Consumers are well informed and knowledgeable employees will not be owned but utilized as valuable resources. Top executives will not see themselves as untouchable but dispensable unless they are involved and effective as team leaders. They will also strike the balance between economic, human, and social dimensions of the corporation.





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