April 18, 2002
In 1973, Westinghouse and its longtime rival, General Electric, ranked among the strongest companies in the American economy. By the late 1990s, Westinghouse had disappeared from the economic landscape, whereas GE posted sales of $100 billion and employed nearly 300,000 people. Both companies faced common external challenges: energy crises, recessions, shareholder activism, the globalization of competition, the revolution in information technology, and the graying of the industrial economy. Their drastically different fates, however, were the results of the choices made in the face of these changes.
Based on a statistical profile of the one hundred largest industrial companies – the Fortune 100 – and complemented by detailed historical case studies of individual corporations, Changing Fortunes examines the struggles of the giant industrial enterprises that once dominated the economy to adapt to a new reality.
One of the first books to address the shifting roles of big industrials in the postindustrial economy, Changing Fortunes vividly portrays the waning of America’s leading industrial corporations and their international transformations. Here, a leading Harvard Business School scholar and two business historians profile the Fortune 100 industrial corporations during the past quarter century – since the first oil crisis in 1973-1974 – and trace their migration from center stage as they struggled to adjust to internal and external changes. Organized thematically, chapters in this groundbreaking study investigate:
- The forces reshaping the economy since the mid-1970s, as well as the magnitude of changes big companies had to make to survive and prosper
- The broad economic, technological, and social forces that affected all big companies and common responses by the Fortune 100 industrial corporations
- The changes large industrial corporations made in strategy, structures, systems, and governance
- The implications of the receding significance of large industrial corporations for owners and investors, employees, customers, and communities
- Entry and exit from the Fortune 100 population and the changing basis of the United States economy
- Strategies and actions that seem most likely to ensure the survival of individual industrial companies in an environment of contraction and a future of constrained options
Changing Fortunes is essential reading not only for all leaders of industrial companies who need perspective on their immediate circumstances but also for leaders in nascent industries and service businesses who can expect, eventually, to encounter tough choices when confronted with the necessity to change.
Nitin Nohria is Richard P. Chapman Professor of Business Administration and Chair of the Organizational Behavior Department at Harvard Business School. He is the author of The Differentiated Network, winner of the Academy of Management’s Best Book Award.
Davis Dyer is a founding director of The Winthrop group, Inc., a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based firm specializing in business and technology history, and a faculty member at Monitor University, part of the Monitor Group. His most recent book is (with Daniel Gross) The Generations of Corning: The Life and Times of a Global Corporation (2001).
Frederick Dalzell is a senior consultant with The Winthrop Group. He holds a PhD in American Civilization from Harvard University and is co-author of a forthcoming study of Procter & Gamble.