The management of diversification in a large industrial company

  • M.J. Callaghan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This work is the result of an action-research-type study of the diversification effort of part of a major U.K. industrial company.

Work in contingency theory concerning the impact of environmental factors on organizational design, and the systemic model of viable systems put forward by Stafford Beer form the theoretical basis of the vvork. The two streams of thought are compared and found to offer similar conclusions about the design of effective organizations. These findings are taken as the framework for an analysis both of organization structures for promoting innovation described in the literature, and of those employed by the company for this purpose in recent years. Much attention is given to the use of venture groups, and conclusions are drawn on particular factors which may influence their success or failure.

Both theoretical considerations, and the examination of the company' s recent experience suggested that the formation of the policy of diversification, as well as the method of implementation of the police, might affect its outcorre. Attention is therefore focused on the policy-making and planning process, and in particular on possible problems that this process could generate in a multi-division company.

The view finally taken of diversification effort is that it should be regarded as a learning system. This view helps to expose some ambiguities in the concepts of success and failure in this area, and demonstrates considerable weaknesses in traditional project evaluation procedures.
Date of AwardOct 1982
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJ.C. Watt (Supervisor)


  • diversification
  • innovation management
  • venture groups
  • business policy

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