August 24, 2004
There is a potentially infectious condition inside virtually all organizations that can cause more damage than economic downturns, management upheavals, and global business shifts. Until now it has had no name. But it has impacted some the world’s leading companies, including Procter & Gamble, IBM, Coca-Cola, and Microsoft.
Robert J. Herbold, whose job as COO of Microsoft during much of the 1990s was to fight complexity and implement efficient operating practices in the face of +30 percent growth per year, calls it the Fiefdom Syndrome. And it happens at organizations large and small, profit and nonprofit, at the individual level as well as the group and divisional level. It can undercut a company’s effectiveness, and in extreme cases it has shaken entire industries and taken down major corporations.
The problem begins when individuals, groups, or division – out of fear – seek to make themselves vital to their organizations and, unconsciously or sometimes deliberately, try to protect their turf and gain as much control as possible over what goes on. It is a natural human tendency, dating back to the origins of our species, but if it isn’t managed properly, the damage caused by these “fiefdoms” can spell the death knell of what should have been a strong and vital organization.
People who create fiefdoms can become dangerously insular, losing perspective on what is happening in the world outside their own control. They hoard resources. They are determined to do things in their own way, often duplicating or complicating what should be streamlined throughout the company, leading to runaway costs, increased bureaucracy, and a loss of agility and speed.
In The Fiefdom Syndrome, Bob Herbold exposes why fiefdoms occur and the myriad ways they can compromise a company’s effectiveness – as well as shows what managers, companies, and individuals need to do to break up fiefdoms and eliminate turf wars. Illustrated with countless “war stories” from Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, and other corporations, this book is an essential tool in every managers toolkit.
Robert J. Herbold is an authority on business operations, marketing, strategy, and profitability. From 1994 to 2001 he was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Microsoft, managing the operational aspects of the company. He spent twenty-six years at Procter & Gamble in a variety of roles, with his last five years as Senior Vice President of Marketing. In 2001 he launched the Herbold Group LLC, providing consulting to major corporations.