Publisher: Pitman Publishing, 1998, 382 pages
In June 1987, Beat Hess, head of the legal department of the world-famous Swiss electro-technical firm BBC Brown Boveri, was about to take his family on a well-earned week's holiday to Italy. He was suddenly told by BBC's chairman Fritz Leutwiler and chief executive Thomas Gasser, to prepare a full draft agreement for the 'unthinkable' — negotiations for a merger with long-time rival ASEA, the Swedish power engineering firm that had been gaining ground on Brown Boveri ever since a new CEO, Percy Barnevik, had taken over in 1980. If it came off, this would be the largest cross-border merger in history.
Hess was told to go ahead with his holiday if he wanted to, but that the agreement had to be completed by the first week in July. The handwritten draft with its coffee and suntan lotion stains that Hess brought back from Italy was to be the basis for what has now become a legend of corporate history.
ABB has grown to be a world-beating engineering business, but more than that, it has become one of me most venerated companies in the world of business.
There is almost an ABB doctrine that fascinates business leaders and scholars around the world. Why is ABB so interesting to managers and management gurus alike? And why has It become the world's favourite case study?
ABB's success, in a fiercely competitive industry, is remarkable because the company has pioneered a new form of global organization. Where other multinationals have stumbled, this giant has learned to dance. ABB has learned to manage the tensions between global scope and local focus, between size and speed, and between competition and co-operation. For many it has become the role model for me entrepreneurial, globally connected corporation of the future.
ABB: The Dancing Giant combines an illuminating corporate story with the first insightful analysis of the strategies and structures that have shaped this remarkable organization. Kevin Barham and Claudia Heimer take you inside Europe's most admired company and unravel the decisive factors in its success. Granted unparalleled access to the key players in this story — Percy Barnevik and Göran Lindahl — the authors show how a visionary business can refine the rules for an entire industry, and pioneer the shape of our corporate futures.
Tries to puncture the myth Barnevik, and does a good work.