Is The Organization Man Holding Business Back?

Your story on the recent departure of executives from IBM, GM, Westinghouse, and American Express ("Requiem for yesterday's CEO," Top of The News, Feb. 15) smacks of baby-boomer elitism.

In the story, you criticize the Organization Men who came of age in the 1940s and then go on to suggest that the boomers from the 1960s are finally coming to the rescue. What nonsense!

As a boomer, I have learned that there are no generational boundaries on genius or incompetence.

There are many reasons why companies cannot successfully manage change. To indict the old coots from the '40s for the recent upheaval at some of our large corporations is sophomoric. At least their generation won their wars.

Robert F. Wall


John A. Byrne's piece is right on course but could be taken a few steps further. Noel Tichy's observation that "It's not just age, it's mind-set," also hits the mark. Organization Men have been, are, and will continue to be more responsible to one another than to customers. One of the unwritten obligations of corporate management is to support and defend the organization, which too often translates into resisting change or using it through the chains of command to test allegiance.

The degree of success a company achieves is related to how much attention is paid to customers and changes in the marketplace. More important, though, is the degree of objectivity with which the need for change is identified and new programs are carried out. New ways to think, act, and do are resisted because what's unfamiliar is uncomfortable. Too often, raising comfort levels to gain acceptance through the ranks means making "new" more familiar--and what's familiar is more of the same.

Fred Wolf


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