wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Jeffrey Pfeffer (1946- )Jeffrey Pfeffer


American professor at the Stanford Business School in California and an expert in human resource management (pictured right).


Key books

The External Control of Organizations (1978), written with Gerald Salancik


An organization is dependent on outside supplies of resources (e.g. money, materials, people and information).

This dependence is determined by:


1.The resource’s importance to the organization


2. How much control suppliers have over the resource’s allocation, use and supply

Alternative supplies mean less dependence e.g. lots of labour available means less reliance on existing employees.


Key quote on resources

Resource dependence perspective (describing an organization’s dependence on outside resources).



Managing with Power (1992)


You need power and influence over other people to get things done.


Key quote on empowerment

Our ability to get things done requires us to develop power and the capacity to influence those on whom we depend.



Competitive Advantage Through People (1994)


An organization’s success depends on its people and corporate culture (shared values and beliefs), because they are difficult to copy.

Success through people means working with them and implementing human resource strategies:

  • job satisfaction creators (particularly high wages, interesting work and performance related pay).
  • promotion.
  • feedback on performance.
  • inspirational purpose and values for the organization.
  • fair treatment.
  • empowerment and control over work.
  • involvement in decision making.
  • employment security.
  • training .

Trade unions can assist the introduction of these policies and so help (not hinder) the organization.

An effective corporate strategy integrates human resource policies with other success factors like marketing, innovation and world-class quality.


Key quote on unions

The effects of unions depend very much on what management does.


Key quotes on human resource management

People and how we manage them are becoming more important because many other sources of competitive success are less powerful than they once were.

Machines don’t make things, people do.


The Human Equation (1998)

 Put employees first, because this leads to:

  • customer satisfaction, innovation and profits.
  • managers who involve people in decision making and are sensitive to their needs (like training and learning).


Key quote on human resource management

Effectively managing people is not the sole basis for competitive success.



Jeffrey Pfeffer

The Knowing-Doing Gap (2000), written with Robert Sutton (pictured right)


Organizations fail because they don’t convert knowledge into action (the knowing-doing gap)

They talk a lot but do very little (the smart talk trap).

The best way to avoid this is thoughtful action: 

  • thinking about and discussing current knowledge.
  • putting it into action.
  • learning from doing it.


It is important to encourage the spread of knowledge throughout the organization by:

  • tolerating mistakes.
  • having a ‘no blame’ culture.


Key quote on business success

Spend less time just contemplating and talking about organizational problems. Taking action will generate experience from which we can learn.

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