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Extra info for Enterprise, Management and Innovation in British Business, 1914-80

Sample text

Indeed, the evidence suggests that centralisation was taken too far, with the executive directors spending too much time on the routine management of individual constituents, and within four years the company had adopted a more decentralised, multidivisional structure, based on Nobel’s Metals Group of 1928, with eight product-based manufacturing groups. It is safe to regard ICI as one of the British pioneers of the Chandlerian modern corporation, and certainly, the organisational steps of 1927–31 ensured that there were no managerial ‘limits to growth’, in Penrose’s formulation.

This might be seen as a belated acceptance of the shortcomings of the partnership form for an expanding national business, but the change was not made for organisational reasons but because there was a need to respond more flexibly to the financial problems left by the death of a principal ENTERPRISE, MANAGEMENT AND INNOVATION IN BRITISH BUSINESS 31 partner, Freddie Smith. In all four cases, owners continued to participate fully in management, although power was shared with managers. 40 The progress, or lack of it, made by our selection of ten companies is set out in Table 2.

Its relevance is strongest in twentieth-century applications, of course, where with the emergence of large-scale enterprise the ENTERPRISE, MANAGEMENT AND INNOVATION IN BRITISH BUSINESS 21 ‘invisible hand’ of the market began to be replaced by the ‘visible hand’ of management. Whether, as Williamson has asserted, the work of business history can be usefully combined with a transaction costs emphasis is a matter for argument. The assumption that firms will seek to supersede market transactions and the price mechanism until the cost of organising an additional transaction internally equals the cost of transacting in the market is clearly an important one.

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