ABB, a $30 billion giant whose portfolio covers global markets for electric power generation and transmission equipment, high speed trains, automation and robotics and environmental control systems, is the product of the world's largest cross-border merger to date. ABB has been named as an organisational prototype for the post-industrial age. This case traces the cultural, developmental and career history of Percy Barnevik, CEO of ABB, and looks at his way of managing this sprawling engineering group. Apart from tracing the person-organisation interface - illustrating how a leader's personality and background determine leadership style and affect organisational culture, strategy and structure - the case addresses a number of other issues: i) the process of corporate transformation; ii) the architecture of the corporation of the future; iii) the making of global executives; iv) various strategic issues; v) management succession.
The case set offers a great opportunity to explore the kind of leadership practices necessary to run a corporation effectively beyond the year 2000. It looks at both the leader's charismatic and instrumental roles. Barnevik has gone further than most company presidents in creating a new kind of organisation that combines global scale and world-class technology with deep roots in the local community. He has given new meaning to the concept of being local worldwide. Given his effectiveness as an organisational architect, Barnevik is an ideal point of focus in the study of both organisation and leadership. The personal background provided in the case also allows an exploration of a number of psychodynamic issues, which are part and parcel of life organisations.