Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Quotation of the Moment: Corporate Culture

This anecdote, by Robert Townsend (1920-1998), shows how one person can have an effect on corporate culture.  It comes from his book Up the Organization.
When I became head of Avis [in 1962--EFB] I was assured that no one at headquarters was any good, and that my first job was to start recruiting a whole new team. Three years later, Hal Geneen, the President of ITT (which had just acquired Avis), after meeting everybody and listening to them in action for a day, said, “I’ve never seen such depth of management; why I’ve already spotted three chief executive officers!” You guessed it. Same people. I’d brought in only two new people, a lawyer and an accountant.


  1. Eric:

    Nice. I've contended for years that if you wish to succeed in management you have a choice: go get yourself an MBA or absorb the wisdom from three books: The Prince by Nicolo Macchiavelli, My Years With General Motors by Alfred P. Sloan and Up the Organization by Robert Townsend. The last is a vastly under-used masterpiece.



  2. Thanks for the advice, Frank. Up the Org was one of the few business books that my engineer father kept around the house. It's an easy read, and I think Townsend's comments on executive compensation (he thought it should be lower, back in the '60's and '70's) keep it from being popular. I should note that it is still in print, though. How many other management books of the last 40 years can say that?