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The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office
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The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office

3.29 of 5 stars 3.29  ·  rating details  ·  170 ratings  ·  44 reviews
We create organizations because we need to get a job done--something we couldn't do alone--and join them because we're inspired by their missions (and our paycheck). But once we're inside, these organizations rarely feel inspirational. Instead, we're often baffled by what we encounter: clueless managers, a lack of clear objectives, a seeming disregard for data, and the vas ...more
Published January 8th 2013 by Twelve (first published 2013)
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Margaret Sankey
I would categorize this as popular business sociology--an attempt to apply social science to explain why so many organizations become (or start out) dysfunctional in their own way through a similar process. It is always easier to drift into standardization and a single set of guidelines applied to every situation, but in doing so, ossify and reduce ability to innovate and change with the environment. The authors produce vivid and varied examples--McDonalds must have sufficient standards for fran ...more
Dylan Groves
Tries to do for management economics what Ariely did for behavioral economics. Ends up reading as a sprawling defense of MBA programs.

Three takeaways:

1 - Organizations are valuable because they lower market transaction costs (cost of search, cost of contracting, cost of marketing). Organizations are dangerous because they reduce market-based information mechanisms, stifle innovation, and tend towards costly bureaucratic growth.

2 - The two poles of successful organizations are good management -
First, this was a well written book. There were plenty of interesting stories and tidbits, and a lot of pithy sentences. Even the many pages of endnotes had some zingers in them. But ultimately, I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would. The concept of a book about organization is quite broad, and in effect, this book felt like a survey class (or a “Now That’s What I Call Music” CD with the current hits of the quarter) in organizational behavior and organizational design with a heavy ...more
I'll give you this little nugget from the book: "If there's one message to take away from this book, it's that a glass half full may be the best you can hope for." The reader is treated to this pebble of genius on page 248. Acknowledgements start on page 267. I work at a small non-profit, so knew I'd have to extrapolate and rework the examples to make them applicable. Many of them are readily applicable, as this is as much about human nature as how it operates in an organizational setting. The a ...more
"As companies boost production or expand across product lines, work stays in the org up to the point where escalating costs of management and coordination outstrip the costs and headaches of dealing with outside suppliers. Then the market takes over. This balancing act was Coase's big insight." (32)

"If what gets measured is what gets managed, then what gets managed is what gets done." (38)

"Standardization is cheap; customization is expensive." (106)

"'The CEO is the link between the Inside that i
Melissa Choi
It started off really well with a solid introduction of Ronald Coase’s work, which led him to win the Nobel Prize in economics for his invaluable insight into the “nature of the firm.” The anecdotes and examples of principle agent problems were fascinating, ranging from large corporations like P&G to the Methodist Church and even the military. They went on to analyze why innovation is at odds with organization, and discussed several ways to deal with this trade-off.

Things got more boring in
Roger Smitter
Fisman and Sullivan provide a highly accessible book that challenges us to think about the big questions about how we organize people and resources to accomplish goals.

The chapters focus on why do we organize, job design, solving the organizational puzzle, the dialectic between innovation and the need for control, the ambiguous role of managers, configuring space (both real and digital), the economic drivers of organizations, and the often serious consequences of ill defined boundaries between

Organizations allow us to get stuff done! We need organizations to exist in order to provide structures and processes which enable large groups of people to come together more effectively than they would without these processes and structures in place. While this may not seem like ‘rocket science’ the authors go into great detail exploring a wide range of case studies showing how different organizations have used different structures and processes – from matrix forms of organizing
There are days when just about everyone thinks: why on earth does anyone work for an enterprise? Personal motivations aside, the book opens with a handcrafted eyeglass frame maker who makes custom frames. He's happy with making the best possible product, has no plans to work faster and is content to make things one at a time.

Clearly a larger organization is needed if the enterprise is complex technology, a product or process to be scalable, or a significant societal problem. When they get large
I struggled between a 2 and a 3 for this book. Ultimately, it was well written. It was not the book that I thought I was picking up though. Had it just been named "The Org" and dropped "The Underlying Logic of the Office", that would have been much better. They do case studies, it's true, but it was primarily on organizations that weren't your normal office like the FBI, the Baltimore Police Department, McDonald's. It was obviously written by academics who'd never worked in a cube farm before. I ...more
A highly accessible book that seeks to illuminate the trade-offs of having organizations.

The authors write well and supplement their thesis with memorable examples - ranging from corporate to governmental-level organizations.

Yet, the book's thesis feels somewhat lacking in nuance. This could be due to the length of the book (only 308 pages).
Adrian Lee
Bureaucracy works but beware the trade-offs. The information revolution flattened organisations but also allowed them to expand. CEOs' salaries tend to be disproportionately large because of the outsize influence they create, and golden handshakes exist to incentivise CEOs in considering mergers and acquisitions even at the expense of making themselves and their positions redundant. And meetings are important because they facilitate the transmission of soft data which are nuanced and harder to g ...more
This must be the first ever book written in defense of beaurocracy. With that said, it is a cogent and well-written defense. This standard B-school looks at military and blue chip structures crossed into four star territory with the tidbit about Al Quaeda at the end.

Mr. Fisman tackles some pretty thorny questions throughout the book, but the result is readable and downright funny at times. If you are interested in B-School, the military, the police force, or the FBI, you should probably read wha
Fascinating topic given we mostly work in organizations. But not well executed; could have been a lot better but worth a quick read if you have time.
Working in organisations, sometimes it does feel like we are stuck in rot and organisations in general suck. However, this book, has been a timely reminder that organisations maybe a necessary evil. Through historical insights provided by the likes of Coase, Chandler etc. and using case studies from more contemporary organisational functioning, the authors hold the view that the ‘org’ is not a problem, rather a solution, but one that comes with messy realities. An immutable fact of org life is t ...more
This is an interesting perspective on organizations from an economist's point of view. People who work for large centralized orgs like the University of California will enjoy these insights. The rationale behind our office culture, meetings, internal controls, and bureaucracies are explored. Have you ever wondered why CEOs get paid so much and how they spend most of their time? Other mysteries like why travel and expense reimbursements are necessary evils are also revealed.
If you've worked in an organization this book speaks to you. Those things in your organization that you often complain about without really taking the time to reason or understand why they exist or happen are brought to light by the authors. Knowing the why's/attempts of your organization doesn't eliminate the frustration of certain aspects/policies/performance reviews/etc. of the organization, but this book can help reduce some of that frustration by knowing the why's a little better. Good read ...more
Mavericks, be damned.

Well, that's not exactly the message of this book. But the book does provide a welcome counterweight to the onslaught of books that demand that you lean in, go the extra mile, dare to be great, and all that.

It basically suggests that in all large organizations, there are compromises, and there are good reasons for this, and compromise and compatibility between divergent aims is what makes the world go round.

Not sexy, but it rings true to me.
Ben Sweezy
This book was terrible. I was excited to buy this on my Kindle...eager to get some theory, models, and insights into the function and dysfunction of the generic office. I sought a vessel for transference of my own frustrations into a useful image of "well yeah, that's how they all are unless XXX." The prescriptions for XXX though are useless, unpersuasive, poorly supported and overwrought with anecdote.

This really was one of the most disappointing books I've ever read.
John Smith
An unambitious work, seeking to answer a simple question: "why do we have organizations anyway?" Lacking in diagrams, and data - which would have been a simple addition to make - this book fails to reach its potential as an enlightening review of all the organizational tools at our disposal. While the authors did dissect many varying organizations in diverse fields, the examples were reused over and over again where new, sticky and interesting anecdotes would do.
I'm glad to have the rationale for a golden parachute. As a nonbusiness person, trapped in a business person's world, this did help me understand the reasons for organizational bureaucracy. It's not sexy, though. Definitely not sexy. So not sexy that I took a star off my review score, though it's actually pretty well written and not the author's fault that I can't get excited about middle-management.
This book provides a very succinct account of the purpose of the organization. This is my first exposure to the "Principal-Agent" and "Peter" theories of management. An entire chapter is devoted to CEO compensation. The authors are from HBS and often disparage the data-driven methods of researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management, which I found quite amusing.
The "underlying logic" seems to be that organizations can't be wished out of existence and that efforts to modify organizational culture may have unintended consequences. Worth the overdue fees incurred at the Fairfax County Public Library. If I had a shelf of "business management books that don't make me want to die," I would add this to it.
Blake Kanewischer
This is a quick read that feels like a meta-book, in a sense. It brings together a bunch of vignettes and ideas from Taylorization to perverse incentives. It does help to highlight or reinforce the challenges of organizational design, and is a useful reminder for those of us in BPM / OD roles.
Brenda Murphy
Very readable - allows one to appreciate the organization with all its flaws. Makes one less likely to criticize the attempts of large corporations/ govt agencies / associations to "change" their cultures and to applaud any that actually manage to do it.
Holly Hunt
I knew a lot of the material already through my studies, so it wasn't as eye-opening as I had hoped. However I would recommend it to anyone looking for a sampler of organizational research presented through humorous or political case studies.
The book ends with an anecdote if how even Al Qaeda submits Travel and Expense reports is pretty hilarious and enlightening.

I would have given 4 stars but its a book on business organization lets be realistic. Good book though.
This is an interesting book.
Not at all what I expected, but it certainly answers many questions anyone might have about the company or organization they work for.
The authors explain not just what is, but why it is.
Very good!
This is a very business-school book, with lots of analysis and case studies, but little "how to." I skimmed it-- some of the case studies are great, but other sections are about economics and were of little interest to me.
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