The recent abrupt departure of Alcoa's veteran president was the tremor before the quake. On Aug. 9, Chairman Paul O'Neill imposed a dramatic management reorganization at the world's largest aluminum maker. O'Neill aims to make Alcoa one of the nation's most decentralized large companies. He wiped out two layers of management that separated his office from front-line operations managers. The theory: Quality and customer service will improve dramatically.

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