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

3.34  ·  Rating details ·  319 ratings  ·  62 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
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published January 8th 2013 by Twelve (first published 2013)
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3.34  · 
Rating details
 ·  319 ratings  ·  62 reviews

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Dylan Groves
Jan 22, 2013 rated it liked it
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 -
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Sean Goh
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biz
Illuminating view into why organisations have evolved into the way they are. Why do meetings exist? Read and find out.
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.

Jobs that stay inside the org are the hard ones: hard to measure, hard to define, hard to do. If they were easy, we would hire con
Gaurav Soni
Jun 22, 2017 rated it did not like it
Here goes 90 days of my life fighting with myself to finish this book. I feel bad coz that averages out to about 3-4 pages everyday. But this just further strengthens my point how bad this book is. The book tries to cook multiple stories around 4-5 key points (only) that are there in the book, but fails miserably to prove them through the same . It does not tell anything new that a person working in an office environment may not know. But authors do a wonderful job making everything sound sinful ...more
Florin Pitea
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Brief, clear, well organised, accessible and not only instructive, but also amusing in places. Recommended.
Margaret Sankey
Feb 09, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Ben Sweezy
Nov 24, 2013 rated it did not like it
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.
Vincent Li
Aug 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Essentially, Freakonomics for management and organizational economics. Combines interesting counterintuitive insights with a wide sampling of academic literature. Entertaining for sure, and well written. My complaint is the same as when I took management, which is that much of the book seems to focus on simple casual stories that purport to teach lessons but some of those alleged causations seem questionable (but to the authors' credit, they admit that occasionally in the book).

Much of the book
Andrew Ma
May 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Oh god. Glad that I am not, at the time of reading, working in an office!

Great insights. Organisational benefits and trade-offs. Interesting to go inside the black box of the 'firm' and it's implications for the wider economy. I love the examination of transactions costs and how it determines whether a firm outsources a task or gathering of supplies - or does it in-house.

I like to make my own sauerkraut these days but it does take time that is probably greater than the cost of buying it from the
Jul 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
It's interesting but very winded and drags a bit.
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: odd-books
Made me more sympathetic to bosses.
Matthew Green
There were perhaps a handful of interesting passages in the book, but overall very little to recommend it.
Alex Mader
Well enough written book but didn't really feel to have much of an argument to make or point beyond reciting anecdotes about points of interest for the authors.
John Yafi
Mar 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
Bullshit. Topics are not matching the contain. Like, the title of the book.
Julia Milner
A few interesting passages but, overall, not the book I had hoped it would be.
Ayush Thakur
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A deep dive into how Organizations are structured the way they are structured, how small changes in metrics can have huge consequences
Clark Hays
Jun 14, 2015 rated it liked it
A compelling, deflating, look inside corporate organizations

Disclaimer: I work for a Fortune 1000 financial services company with a national presence and about 3,000 employees corporation. Comparatively speaking, it’s pretty small but still oversees billions of dollars in assets, answers to anonymous shareholders and its leaders constantly fret about the market, our financial returns and how to make sure employees are incented precisely well enough to do what’s needed and not a penny more. In ot
Jun 05, 2013 rated it liked it

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
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: business, first-reads
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
Jo Oehrlein
Feb 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
What's the job of a manager? Do we actually need them? What's a CEO do? Do they make a difference?

If you've wondered about those things and other similar questions, then this is the book for you.

Best taken in small bites because even with stories it can be a bit dry.
Melissa Choi
Mar 06, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Mar 22, 2013 rated it liked it
"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
Roger Smitter
Jun 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Adrian Lee
Jan 20, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Feb 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Good book to appreciate the org design tradeoffs. Org is a tool, not a solution. Dysfunctions and ill-effects are part of the design. Metrics and culture drive the outcome. Many interesting stores to show the reality behind the theory.
- why measuring police by # of arrests is bad, but the best way
- interesting org analysis inc. police, methodist, army
- origin of management (transcontinental railroad) and why mgnt wasn’t needed before
- consistency vs. innovation
- how culture evolves for effi
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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
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“Office reformers are pulled in two directions. They either follow Frederick Taylor (the father of scientific management) and the successive waves of management scientists who thought that with enough overhead cameras, spreadsheets, computing power, and analysis, they could “solve” the organization and its problems. Or they follow the dreamers of the 1970s and ’80s, who, inspired by the cybernetic-counterculture movement, thought that by getting rid of that same organizational infrastructure, they could free workers to reach their full potential by embracing chaos, complexity, new technology, or all three.” 0 likes
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