Walter Frick:阿里巴巴更像通用电气

文 / Walter Frick HBR副主编

阿里巴巴近期在美国递交了IPO文件,这可能成为最大的科技股IPO。但是阿里巴巴不太像Facebok、谷歌,或者亚马逊,相反,它的运作模式更像通用电气。

Alibaba, the Chinese internet titan that filed for an IPO in the U.S. last week, could be the largest tech IPO in history. But Alibaba doesn’t look much like Facebook, Google, or even Amazon. Instead, it operates more like GE.

遍布电子商务、支付、通讯、企业软件、娱乐和其他更多领域,阿里巴巴更像一个企业集团生态。尽管其有一个统一的战略,但是根据哈佛商学院教授朱莉-伍尔夫研究,阿里巴巴集团内,各业务之间的竞争与合作之间有着一种动态平衡,每个业务部门的分布式决策和整个集团的整体决策并存。

Spanning e-commerce, payments, messaging, business software, entertainment, and more, Alibaba looks a lot like a conglomerate. And it sets strategy like one, according to a Harvard Business School case study by professor Julie Wulf. Competition trumps cooperation, and distributed decision-making by individual business units trumps universal strategy.

马云受到杰克-韦尔奇的影响,杰克韦尔奇管理通用电气时,并不为集团设立一个统一的具体目标,马云也是让各个业务发展自己的战略,阿里巴巴在管理时,要求他们在各个行业中成为领先者,很像杰克-韦尔奇的“第一或者第二”战略。

With its success, Alibaba and its founder Jack Ma are making the case for a strategy approach that has fallen out of favor in the U.S. As the 2010 case describes:

By his own admission, Ma was a fan of Jack Welch, so it was only natural that his organization came to resemble that of GE in some regards. Just as Welch did not dictate an overall theme or strategy for GE, Ma preferred not to set one agenda from Alibaba’s corporate center, but rather to have each subsidiary set its own strategy. Much like Welch’s famed “#1 or #2” objective for each of this businesses, Alibaba’s governance inspired its subsidiaries to be the leaders of their respective industries. Ma explained, “Business unit presidents must have the freedom to do what is right for their business. I want business units to compete with each other…and focus on being the best in their businesses.

这种企业集团生态在西方很少见,但是在中国获得巨大成功并不意外。在2013年《哈佛商业评论》写道,“企业集团生态可能在发达国家被看做恐龙,但是在新兴市场国家,多元业务的集团生态正在继续蓬勃发展。”

While conglomerates are few and far between in the West, their success in China is no surprise. As a 2013 HBR article explained, “Conglomerates may be regarded as dinosaurs in the developed world, but in emerging markets, diversified business groups continue to thrive.”

The article, by J. Ramachandran, K.S. Manikandan, and Anirvan Pant of the Indian Institute of Management at Bangalore, Tiruchirappalli, and Calcutta, respectively, also offers a concise history of the rise and fall of Western conglomerates:

Conglomerates were all the rage in the United States and Europe for decades, but hardly two dozen of them survive there today. By the early 1980s, they had been laid low by their poor performance, which led to the idea that focused enterprises were better at creating shareholder value than diversified companies were. Most conglomerates shrank into smaller, more specialized entities.

集团生态和一般企业架构不同,在普通企业,业务有互补性则保留,成为一个部门。没有互补性则卖出,而集团生态不这么做。阿里巴巴式的多元化企业集团生态是与众不同的,业务看似多元,在所有这些背后有一个共同主题:那就是中国互联网的崛起。

The heart of modern strategy is the alignment of complementary activities. If activities are complementary, they should be combined as divisions of the same firm, the thinking goes. If they are not complementary, part of the firm should be sold. Conglomerates resist this approach, combining more diverse businesses and allowing them separate decision-making structures. Investors are wary of this approach. As the article authors write, “On Wall Street the typical conglomerate discount ranges from 6% to 12%.

Alibaba’s businesses are not completely diverse, of course. There is a central theme behind them all, and it is the rise of internet usage in China.

阿里集团生态系统在互补和竞争之间找到平衡。和自上而下的决策不同,阿里巴巴让独立各业务部门先行启动,当集团内部各业务竞争中出现冲突时,公司文化起着平衡调节的作用,研究者写道:“马云经常鼓励子业务老大,自行判断哪些决定对他们是好的。”

What stands out in the Alibaba case isn’t a total rejection of complementarity, but an approach to strategy that mirrors that of conglomerates. Rather than dictating decisions from the top down, Alibaba lets them roll up from the individual businesses. “When internal competitive conflicts arose among Alibaba’s businesses, the firm’s culture tended to favor individual subsidiaries over the group,” according to the case. “Ma constantly made subsidiary heads aware they had the freedom to do what was right for their businesses.”

和其他企业集团生态一样,阿里巴巴有不同的决策团队,也有不同的技术团队和平台,但下面这个图解释了阿里巴巴如何从这种分布式战略中,掌握一个统一战略:依靠“核心组”决策。

Like conglomerates, Alibaba’s businesses have separate boards, and even separate technology teams and platforms. The exhibit below, from the 2013 HBR piece, describes how Alibaba and firms like it handle strategy, in light of such a distributed approach: with a “group center.”

“核心组”的定义,是一批高级管理者的联合体,他们的使命是研究长期战略,寻找跨业务机会,塑造公司的认同和价值观,就像阿里巴巴。来自各个子业务的120位高管和首席XX官级别的高管,每年举行会议,决定长期策略,并考虑如何进行组织变化,让业务更加互补。

A “group center” is a group of executives in a conglomerate tasked with long term strategy, locating cross-business opportunities, and shaping the firm’s identity and values. Sure enough, this resembles how Alibaba is organized. One-hundred and twenty executives from its subsidiaries and C-suite form what is known as the “Group Organization,” a leadership team that meets annually to set long-term strategy and to consider “complementary organizational changes.”

有些“核心组”强调业务多于文化,有些则不然,但是作者强调,文化和业务的平衡能够创造最好的效果。

Some group centers emphasize strategy work over identity or vice versa, but the authors suggest that the most successful ones balance the two.

阿里巴巴实行这种“小组领导”的策略,对管理一个企业集团而言,带来了关键性优势:真正能把握跨业务的机遇、平衡更灵活的结构和日常管理的关系。阿里巴巴集团生态的做法,让战略不再受制于公司结构,传统组织结构因为需要让股东满意,错过了太多的机会,而由“核心组”领导的企业集团生态,能够更好的维护股东价值,尽管这种架构在北美并不常见。

This group-led approach to conglomerate strategy offers key advantages, the authors argue, in balancing the search for cross-business opportunity with a more flexible structure for day-to-day management solutions. They write:

In a sense, the business group liberates strategy from structure. Though structure is supposed to follow strategy, the former’s limitations seem to have decided strategy until now. Too often the need to pass up opportunities in order to satisfy shareholders’ expectations has inhibited companies’ growth. A business group, particularly one led by a dynamic group center, enables the pursuit of shareholder value at the affiliate level as well as strategic value at the group level. That makes the business group a winning organizational structure even if it isn’t popular in North America — yet.

集团生态的做法已经开始重新流行起来,特别在互联网公司。Facebook宣布打散其服务,放弃那种提供一个综合在线服务的想法,转而提供一系列app。公司能决定,大战略是否要从小业务单元中慢慢浮现出来,或者在两个小业务冲突时,如何从顶层进行决策。

While conglomerates may not be about to catch on in the U.S., there are signs that their bottom-up approach to strategy might be making a comeback. Facebook is unbundling its services, giving up on offering a single, comprehensive online offering and instead offering a series of separate apps. At some point, the company will have to decide whether the strategy flows up from those divisions, or flows down from the top — and what to do when two groups’ interests conflict.

Facebook的CEO扎克伯格表示,这样的架构,才能创造出“目的明确的、顶级的用户体验”。马云应该也会同意。

The justification for the move, according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is the “premium on creating single-purpose, first-class experiences.” Jack Ma would no doubt agree.

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引用本文:思谋网. Walter Frick:阿里巴巴更像通用电气. http://www.scmor.com/view/1703.

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