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Reading list

June 2012

Reading list

Books and articles that matter

By Dean Andy Boynton

Jay R. Galbraith’s Designing Organizations: An Executive Guide to Strategy, Structure, and Process (Jossey-Bass, 2002) should be of great interest to any manager who wants to create a high-performing organization.

Galbraith, one of the world’s leading organization design experts, authors, and consultants, is an affiliated research scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California. He is also professor emeritus at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne, Switzerland, where I was privileged to know him for several years as a friend and colleague.

A landmark book first published in 1995, Designing Organizations is Galbraith’s guide to his “star model” of design principles, which consists of five components: strategy, structure, processes, rewards, and people. Galbraith emphasizes the importance of aligning these five components so they complement one another as well as external organizational units. Managers who design organizations using Galbraith’s principles don’t merely make decisions; they determine how those decisions are designed.

In my role as dean, I think through the star model concepts regularly as my colleagues and I apply them to shape our culture for research and teaching. Making sure that Galbraith’s elements align within our organization, we have created a cross-disciplinary research support committee, a faculty-wide research forum, a research productivity measurement process, a mentoring system for junior faculty, and new financial supports for research.

In my experience with firms worldwide, the star model is exceedingly underrated and under-used. All too frequently, great firms hire good people and produce no better than average results. In many cases, that is because organizational design gets in the way of high performance. I would argue that, by using the star model, great managers become architects and leaders of their organizations.

Diagnose your firm; know your strategy and external terrain. Determine what gets in the way of peak performance. Use Galbraith’s model to guide how you think about change, and you can be not only a manager by title, but a true architect of a great organization.


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