77 – Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprises (Chandler, 1962)

Chandler, Alfred D.
Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the Industrial Enterprises
The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1962

Alfred DuPont Chandler, Jr.[1] (September 15, 1918 – May 9, 2007) was a professor of business history at Harvard Business School, who wrote extensively about the scale and the management structures of modern corporations. Chandler graduated from Harvard College in 1940. After wartime service in navy he returned to Harvard to get his Ph.D. in History. He taught at M.I.T. and Johns Hopkins University before arriving at Harvard Business School in 1970. He received a Pulitzer Prize for his work, The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business (1977). [Source: Wikipedia.com]

Topic: The creation and the spread of the multidivisional form of organization in American industry.

Main questions :
Thesis: Structure follows strategy
How multidivisional structures were created?

Data and Methods :
Analysis of 4 industrial cases. Chandler described how the chemical company Du Pont, the automobile manufacturer General Motors, the energy company Standard Oil of New Jersey and the retailer Sears Roebuck managed a growth and diversification strategy by adopting the revolutionary multi-division form

Summary and citations:

• “The initial proposition is then, that administration is an identifiable activity, that it differs from the actual buying, selling, processing, pr transporting of the goods, and that in the large industrial enterprise the concern of the executive is more with administration than with the performance of functional work” p9
• “A second proposition is that the administrator must handle two types of administrative tasks when he is coordinating, appraising and planning the activities of the enterprise” p9 (1-long-run health and 2-day to day operation)
• “Strategy can be defined as the determination of the basic long-term goals and objectives of an enterprise, and the adoption of courses of action and the allocation of resources necessary for carrying out these goals” p13
• “Structure can be defined as the design of organization through which the enterprise is administered”. P14 . Two aspects. 1) lines of authority and communication and 2) information and data that flow in these lines.

I – Historical settings
• “The more common road to the formation of the vertically integrated enterprise was by way of horizontal combination and consolidation.” P29
• “After 1890’s, administrative innovations [standardization of procurement and processes] were much more important to the development of American business than legal ones [i.e. New Jersey amendment]”. P31
• “And by 1900, some of the very largest of the new enterprises were already responsible for the administration of integrated multifunction subsidiaries as well as single-function departments” p38
• “After 1900…three types of strategies. Growth came either from an expansion of the firm’s existing lines to much the same type of customers, or it resulted from a quest for new markets and sources of supplies in distant lands, or finally it came from the opening fo new markets by developing a wide range of new products for different types of customers.” P42
• “…structure does follow strategy, and the different types of expansion brought different administrative needs requiring different administrative organizations.” P49

II – DuPont
• The Finance Committee was taken in charge by the top management, Pierre and Coleman DuPont.
• “From this time on [1914], the criterion for promotion was competence rather than family background.” p64
• “This strategy of product diversification was a direct response to the threat of having unused resources” p90
• “The structure accepted in Sept, 1921, has serve the du Pont Company effectively ever since. Losses were soon converted into profits… “p112
• “The strategy of diversification quickly demanded a refashioning of the company’s administrative structure if its resources, old and new, were to be used efficiently and therefore profitably” p113
• “And in transforming the highly centralized, functionally departmentalized structure into a “decentralized”, multidivisional one, the major achievement had been the creation of the new divisions.” P113

VI – Organizational innovation – A comparative analysis
• Importance of the financial department. DuPont introduced a 3rd role of this department. “Planning, coordinating, and appraising the work of other departments and the enterprise as a whole”. P288’. “Thus these departments became increasingly part of the central and even of the general office organizations” p288
• “The central office activities that tied the work of the functional departments to the changing market usually came about only after a slowing of market demand”. P291
• More attention was paid in bringing together departments to improve products than to coordinate product flow. P292
• “(Managers) had to be encouraged to concentrate on entrepreneurial rather than operational activities” p294
• “the initial awareness of the structural inadequacies … came from executives close to top management , but who were not themselves in a a position to make organizational change” p303
• “it took sizable crisis to bring action “ p303
• “the men who make the critical decisions in any economy can be defined as those who have the actual or real, rather than merely the legal, power t o allocate the resources available to them and who, in fact, determine the basic goals and policies for their enterprises. Clearly the general executive is such a man”…”stockholders and legal owners long ago abdicated this function” p312
• “The general executive of the large corporation is then a crucial and identifiable a figure mid-twentieth century economy as Adam Smith’s capitalist was in the late eighteenth century, and Jean Baptiste Say’s entrepreneur in the early nineteenth” p314
• “Unless structure follows strategy, inefficiency results” p314
• “the empire builder rarely became an organization builder” p315

VII – The spread of the multidivisional structure
Technologic changes and market diversity are the main drivers for companies to adopt multidivisional structures. Metallurgic companies (Steel, Aluminium, Copper, Nickel) don’t accept the new structure. Others (processors of agricultural products, rubber, petroleum) accept partially the new structure and other industries (electrical and electronics, machinery and chemicals) accept widely the new structure.
• Those who accept widely the new structure: “The leading companies in all these industries have increasingly developed new product lines sold in markets quite different from their original one.”p362
• “the fewer the markets and the simpler the marketing process, the easier will be the administration and coordination of functional departments” p343
• Family-firms have tended to be slower in changing both structure and strategy than the others. p380

• “Structure has been the design for integrating the enterprise’s existing resources to current demand; strategy has been the plan for the allocation of resources of anticipated demand”. P383
• “Thus four phases or chapters can be discerned in the history of the large American industrial enterprise: the initial expansion and accumulation of resources; the rationalization of the use of resources; the expansion into new markets and lines to help assure the continuing full use of resources; and finally the development of a new structure to make possible continuing effective mobilization of resources to meet both changing short-term market demands and long-term markets trends.” P385.

Personal comments, interesting issues and findings:

• P29: When Chandler says “marketing”, he is referring to logistics and distribution of finish products. Chandler’s marketing together with “the procurement of raw materials” would now be called supply-chain management (SCM). Chandler calls marketing “advertising”. Also, in the chart 1 p10, there are not represented the departments of Quality (came later, in the 80’s with the Japanese methods), Human Resources, Logistics or Marketing (included in Sales?).
• I think that the person makes the position. Some persons do less that what their position implies and in opposition, some people go beyond the responsibilities of their position. But I agree with Chandler (p290), multidivisional structure is needed in order that the character and training of the mid-executives matter.
• Ch VII: On the spread of the multidivisional form, the author focuses on technological and market diversity as the mains drivers for its acceptance in specific groups of industries. I think that now, the use of technologies and knowledge-based economies tend to collaborative networks organisations but it is true that industrial companies still adopt the multidivisional structure.
• A new book “The New How: Building Business Solutions through Collaborative Strategy” by Nilofer Merchant (2010) says that the multidivisional structure creates an “Air Sandwich” between top management and workers. This is the consequence of top management setting strategies and workers implementing them. According to Merchant, collaborative networks can bring a solution to this “gap”.
• A conclusion of this book is that to change, you need a crisis. DuPont implemented the new structure not in the “happy” years of the WWI but after the war, when sales decreased.
• As seen in the book, top management is initially against change (ie Irénée DuPont)