Thursday, June 24, 2010

Golden Tower of the Fisher Building: The Concept of the Corporation Chapter 2

Nearing the end of Chapter 2.

If you know Detroit, you know the Golden Tower of the Fisher Building, which is on West Grand Avenue, which is more or less the active and healthy section of downtown. The General Motors building is across the street from it. The Motown artists lived north of it.

I was going to do a bit of a note about how the Fisher Building represented the decentralization of General Motors but that idea fell apart. First, Fisher Body never occupied the Fisher Building. The family build it after they sold Fisher Body to General Motors. (For the record, I worked for Fisher Oldsmobile, which was owned by minor and distant branch of the family.)

Second, Fisher Body was not very decentralized. They had one plant for each of the major GW auto lines, which were all managed out of Detroit. Third it was highly efficient as a centralized unit.

Drucker argues that it was able to survive as a centralized unit because it made a single, simple products. That may be the case or not. There is aways a question of why it existed as a distinct unit at all and was not divided and merged into the different automobile lines.

It was originally an artifact of the early manufacturing process. People bought automobiles without the body and then bought a body later. Certain carriages apparently worked on a similar principle. It survived because it survived because it used a specialized manufacturing technique – stamped sheet metal – that was not common in other parts of the company.

Drucker’s example of Fisher Body may not tell us much about how to a company any more than the Fisher Building tells us much about GM. It is not centralized. It seems to work. It may not be a logical division of the company. It certainly is no longer. It was dissolved in 1984.

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