BOOKCASE : The Second Cycle – Winning the war against bureaucracy


We are waist-deep in yet another era of mergers, acquisitions and associated “downsizing”. It’s all about rapid growth. But, warns Danish enterprise icon Lars Kolind, the conditions that incubate today’s commercial success stories also contain the seeds of their destruction.
The mechanisms of success that transform “agile and creative” organisations into “complacent bureaucracies” are all too frequently overlooked by managers, argues Kolind in his recently released book The Second Cycle: Winning the war against bureaucracy. And he presents, along with three other compelling examples, his own experiences as turnround CEO of Oticon, the world’s most successful manufacturer and marketer of hearing aids, as evidence of the validity of his convictions.
This is hard core practical management advice. Or, to use his own words, it is an “experience-based hands-on management book”. Size, age and success propagate the “virus of arrogance” according to Kolind and it is critical for managers to recognise the vital signs and act promptly. He offers seven “proven” tools for revitalising organisations so infected.
After the first flushes of success, organisations, for one reason or another which the author explains, enter critical stage in their life cycle. All too often companies stagnate and decline. Kolind explains the how and the why of the gradual but corrosive process of bureaucratic strangulation.
Enter the “second cycle” by which enterprise, any enterprise, can design new platform on which to rekindle innovation and generate healthy growth. The platform stands on Kolind’s four pillars: meaning; partnership; collaboration; and leadership.
“Meaning” might not appear often in organisational lexicons but, according to Kolind, the word expresses why the organisation exists – why it would be fundamentally missed if it didn’t exist. His partnerships pillar is in turn dual focused – with an eye to employees on the one hand and suppliers and external partners on the other. Collaboration is all about transition – the switch from hierarchy to collaborative “spaghetti” structure; from manager to leader. His leadership philosophy is entirely values-based.
Kolind then offers toolkit of seven techniques with which to diagnose organisations, establish new foundation and move the enterprise into second cycle of sustained innovation and growth. His tools seem rational, reasonable and, with commitment, implementable.
And finally, other living examples, other than Oticon that is. His choice of the primary school system, labour unions and the US automobile industry aren’t entirely appropriate to Kiwi readers but don’t skip them altogether. There are some telling tales here. seriously helpful read.
Reg Birchfield
(A copy of The Second Cycle was kindly supplied for review by Dymocks, Newmarket, Auckland.)

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