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The Tools of Cooperation and Change

By Clayton M. Christensen, Matthew Marx, Howard H. Stevenson

Employers can choose from lots of tools when they want to encourage employees to work together toward a new corporate goal. One of the rarest managerial skills is the ability to understand which tools will work in a given situation and which will misfire. Cooperation tools fall into four major categories: power, management, leadership, and culture. Choosing the right tool, say the authors, requires assessing the organization along two critical dimensions: the extent to which people agree on what they want and the extent to which they agree on cause and effect, or how to get what they want. The authors plot on a matrix where various organizations fall along these two dimensions. Employees represented in the lower-left quadrant of the model, for example, disagree strongly both about what they want and on what actions will produce which results. Those in the upper-right quadrant agree on both dimensions. Different quadrants call for different tools. When employees share little consensus on either dimension, for instance, the only methods that will elicit cooperation are "power tools" such as fiat, force, and threats. Yugoslavia's Josip Broz Tito wielded such devices effectively. So did Jamie Dimon, current CEO of JPMorgan Chase, during the bank's integration with Bank One. For employees who agree on what they want but not on how to get it—think of Microsoft in 1995—leadership tools, such as vision statements, are more appropriate. Some leaders are blessed with an instinct for choosing the right tools—Continental Airlines' Gordon Bethune, General Electric's Jack Welch, and IBM's Lou Gerstner are all examples. Others can use this framework to help select the most appropriate tools for their circumstances.

Article available for purchase on Harvard Business Review

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