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Global business culture

Through the analysis of how IBM has been studied over the years, an essay explains the complexity which must be taken into account when discussing production organisation

 

 Business culture as a key to understanding the success of production organisation. And also to understand which features may in some way also be transferred to other production concerns. All this not just and not so much from the theoretical point of view, but especially from a practical and operational perspective. Starting with the most important company cases.

This is exactly what James W. Cortada (Senior research fellow at the  Charles Babbage Institute of the University of Minnesota) has done in his research which sorts and organises the many different studies about IBM.

The starting principle for Cortada is simple: IBM has been the subject of in-depth studies by historians, economists, professors of corporate management and journalists, but it is only by looking globally at IBM’s own business culture that we can grasp its true essence.

The research, which was published in  Business History Review of the Harvard Business School, therefore examines the various essays on the company, including the contributions in an approximately chronological report of the history of the company, from its early days up to its dominant position in global computing markets. After a general outline of the very nature of IBM, the research starts by examining how the company came to be – when it was still called Computing-Tabulating-Recording Corporation (C-T-R), and then went on to become International Business Machines Corporation -, as described by the series of investigations into the same, moving subsequently on to an in-depth analysis of its business activities until 1950 and then focusing attention on the transformation of the company (between 1940 and 1960) into Computer Company which gradually came to be the leading company in the world in this industry, and then (in around 1980) experiencing a period of crisis which it overcame with a new business culture.

Cortada’s work is an enjoyable read, which tells not only the story of one of the symbolic companies of new technologies, but also of how it is necessary to consider in the culture of a business various elements that must also include its technological and managerial changes.

Change and Continuity at IBM: Key Themes in Histories of IBM

James W. Cortada

Business History Review, Harvard Business School, 2018, page 1 of 32