First Look

First Look summarizes new working papers, case studies, and publications produced by Harvard Business School faculty. Readers receive early knowledge of cutting-edge ideas before they enter the mainstream of business practice. For complete details on faculty research, see our Working Papers section.

October 17, 2006

Two American business icons, Apple and Disney, are subjects of newly-released case studies. The case "iPod vs. Cell Phone: A Mobile Music Revolution?" explores how music-enabled cell phones are challenging the iPod's dominance in digital music. The Disney case, "Walt Disney and the 1941 Animators' Strike," looks for lessons from events precipitating the strike and reviews Walt Disney's extraordinary strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

In separate working papers, Michael W. Toffel studies external influences on facilities managers and the organizations they work for, and the effectiveness of independent verification mechanisms such as the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Standard in shaping corporate performance.

 

Working Papers

Institutional Pressures and Environmental Strategies

Abstract

This paper suggests how institutional theory can explain enduring differences in organizational strategies. We propose that differences in how organizations distribute power across their internal corporate departments lead their facilities to prioritize different institutional pressures and thus adopt different management practices. Specifically, we argue that external constituents who interact with particularly powerful corporate departments are more likely to influence facility managers' decisions. As a result, managers of facilities that are subjected to comparable institutional pressures adopt distinct sets of management practices that appease different external constituents. Using an original survey and archival data obtained for nearly 500 facilities, we find support for these hypotheses.

Download working paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/07-022.pdf

Resolving Information Asymmetries in Markets: The Role of Certified Management Programs

Abstract

Firms and regulators are increasingly relying on voluntary mechanisms to signal and infer quality of difficult-to-observe management practices. Prior evaluations of voluntary management programs have focused on those that lack verification mechanisms and have found little evidence that they legitimately distinguish adopters as having superior management practices or performance. In this paper, I conduct one of the first evaluations to determine whether a voluntary management program that features an independent verification mechanism is achieving its ultimate objectives. Using a sample of thousands of manufacturing facilities across the United States, I find evidence that the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Standard has attracted companies with superior environmental performance. After developing quasi-control groups using propensity score matching, I also find that adopters subsequently improve their environmental performance. These results suggest that robust verification mechanisms such as independent certification may be necessary for voluntary management programs to mitigate information asymmetries surrounding management practices. Implications are discussed for the industry-associations, government agencies, and the non-governmental organizations that design these programs, the companies that are investing resources to adopt them, and those that are relying on them to infer the quality of management practices.

Download working paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/07-023.pdf

 

Cases & Course Materials

Acquisitive Reorganizations—Triangular Mergers

Harvard Business School Note 207-009

Discusses the reasons and uses of triangular or three-party mergers to complete a business acquisition or tax-free corporate reorganization.

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Creditor Activism in Sovereign Debt: "Vulture" Tactics or Market Backbone

Harvard Business School Case 706-057

The role of distressed debt funds, also known as "vulture funds," in sovereign debt restructuring was a hotly debated topic, especially after the success of Elliot Associates in converting an $11 million investment in Peruvian bonds worth $21 million into a $58 million cash payout from the country, representing the full face value of the bonds plus past-due interest. Highlights the problems associated with debt restructuring coordination. On the one hand, many observers derided firms such as Elliot and Dart as "vultures" or "rouge creditors" who sought to profit on sovereign debt restructurings at the expense of countries suffering economic hardship and of the majority of bondholders whose cooperation allowed the restructurings to take place. Critics believed that these holdout creditors created "collective action problems" and presented a major obstacle to successful sovereign debt restructurings. On the other hand, other observers argued that activist investors actually improved the market overall by demonstrating the enforceability of contracts. In fact, they argued that creditors faced too many hurdles in collecting against countries after receiving favorable judgments in support of claims.

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Developing an Effective Living Group in the General Management Program

Harvard Business School Note 407-022

Discusses the importance of living room groups (eight participants who share a living room) at Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program developing into effective learning groups. The diversity of the groups is a strength, but only a conscious and concerted effort of group development can harness that strength. Outlines five steps in group development each team must take. Suggests that action learning, the skill the learning group must master to become effective, is also essential in their back-home organizations, given global competition and efficient markets. A rewritten version of an earlier note.

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Duane Morris: Balancing Growth and Culture at a Law Firm

Harvard Business School Case 407-025

After nearly 100 years as a mid-size regional law firm, Duane Morris entered a period of spectacular growth led by CEO Sheldon Bonovitz. Originally founded by Quakers, the firm had a distinct organizational culture featuring a number of unique or unusual business practices: a transparent and flexible compensation system, practice-group integration across multiple offices, ancillary businesses, early adoption of financial reporting software, and consensus-based decision making. The firm was proud of its corporate culture and sought to maintain it as it grew, bringing in only people who would fit the culture, in small groups. In 2005, the firm completed its first merger, taking over a 64-person San Francisco firm. Growth was necessary to remain competitive, but could Duane Morris maintain its unique culture while bringing on large numbers of new attorneys?

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Finance Leadership in Novartis Consumer Health Businesses

Harvard Business School Case 406-102

Describes and contrasts the roles and challenges of three high-performing finance heads at Novartis Consumer Health businesses in Australia, Japan, and Venezuela. All three faced tremendous pressures in terms of managing time and limited resources, but the particular circumstances of each business made for some specific challenges. Remi Escurel, CFO for Animal Health in Australia and New Zealand and regional CFO for Asia Pacific, juggled a demanding dual role. In Australia, Animal Health was a market leader, but dependence on climate-sensitive products made for uneven performance. Tanya Ferretto served as both finance head and general manager for Animal Health in Japan, where the business was a niche player struggling for survival. Jaime Maturana filled the business, planning, and analysis role for Over-the-Counter in Venezuela, a fast-growing business in a volatile political and economic environment. Examines whether the skills that made these executives successful are portable from one country or region to another. Focuses on how an administrative function such as finance can play a strategic role.

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Governance of the Business Family

Harvard Business School Note 807-020

Explains the purposes, processes, standards, plans, and agreements that together help to govern (or steer) a family that owns a family business.

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Innovating in Health Care—Glossary

Harvard Business School Note 307-011

Provides a glossary of terms used in Harvard Business School's Innovating in Health Care, 2006, Course.

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iPod vs. Cell Phone: A Mobile Music Revolution?

Harvard Business School Case 707-419

In 2006, a nascent market for music-enabled mobile phones was emerging to challenge Apple Computer's dominant position in the digital music industry. Through its iPod line of portable digital music devices and its iTunes Music Store, Apple controlled more than half of the market for both music player hardware and online music sales. But the evolving ability to merge those devices with mobile phones, and to deliver music to mobile handsets (via streaming, side-loading content from a PC or downloading it wirelessly over the air), created a potentially market-changing opportunity for players in several industries. Examines the key players, including Apple; the major wireless service carriers, such as Cingular, Sprint-Nextel, and Verizon Wireless; technology and service vendors, such as RealNetworks and Microsoft; and mobile virtual network operators, such as Virgin Mobile. Covers the origins of the mobile music business, projections on its potential size, its technological building blocks (such as file formats, digital rights management systems, wireless network infrastructure, and handset capacity), and the key dynamics—music delivery method, pricing, mobile-PC integration—that characterize mobile music business models.

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Lenovo: Building a Global Brand

Harvard Business School Case 507-014

Announced in December 2004, the $1.75 billion acquisition of IBM's PC division by Lenovo, China's largest PC maker, made headlines around the world. A relative upstart in the business, Lenovo acquired the division of IBM that invented the PC in 1981. While Lenovo was arguably the best-known brand in China, it was virtually unknown in the rest of the world. In 2004, over 90% of Lenovo's revenues came from China, but with this major deal, Lenovo aimed to become a global technology giant. As a new multinational with 20,000 employees operating in 138 countries, Lenovo needed a global marketing and branding strategy to extend its global reach. This meant determining what Lenovo stood for and designing products that supported that claim. In January 2006, 13 months after the deal was announced and eight months after it closed, Lenovo is preparing for the intense limelight that would come with its sponsorship of the February 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. There, it plans to introduce a Lenovo-branded product line designed from the bottom up for the small to medium enterprise space—a move considered very bold and risky by many observers.

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Scopie's Enlarged Gland Shrinker

Harvard Business School Case 307-035

Describes a firm that markets a laser for a fictional problem. Asks readers to evaluate Scopie's marketing and production strategy (it plans to start in India and then expand to the United States) and its long-term viability.

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Teena Lerner: Dividing the Pie at Rx Capital (A)

Harvard Business School Case 406-088

Teena Lerner started her own hedge fund firm in 2001 after nearly 20 years as a star biotechnology analyst and hedge fund manager. After the start-up phase, her firm became highly profitable. In 2004, however, one of her four analysts lost a lot of money for the firm. If Lerner followed the existing compensation system, she would wind up significantly underpaying her other analysts, all of whom had performed well. Should she follow the compensation system or not? And what should be done about the underperforming analyst?

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Walt Disney and the 1941 Animators' Strike

Harvard Business School Case 406-076

Focuses on the leadership lessons drawn from the events precipitating the Animator's Strike of 1941, depicting the growing pains of a company that was as much formed and changed by American culture as American culture was formed and changed by it. The tale of Walt Disney's roller-coaster journey from small-town paperboy to underage ambulance-driving serviceman to amateur animator and thrice-failed businessman to iconic leader is told against the backdrop of swift and seeping change in the beginning of the 20th century. An ambitious creative genius, he masterfully pursued emerging technological advantage and uniquely grasped and personified American social mores, but was reckless and naive about strategic business issues, especially concerning intellectual property and human resources management. A rewritten version of an earlier case.

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Publications

The Tools of Cooperation and Change

Abstract

Employers can choose from lots of tools when they want to encourage employees to work together toward a new corporate goal. One of the rarest managerial skills is the ability to understand which tools will work in a given situation and which will misfire. Cooperation tools fall into four major categories: power, management, leadership, and culture. Choosing the right tool, say the authors, requires assessing the organization along two critical dimensions: the extent to which people agree on what they want and the extent to which they agree on cause and effect, or how to get what they want. The authors plot on a matrix where various organizations fall along these two dimensions. Employees represented in the lower-left quadrant of the model, for example, disagree strongly both about what they want and on what actions will produce which results. Those in the upper-right quadrant agree on both dimensions. Different quadrants call for different tools. When employees share little consensus on either dimension, for instance, the only methods that will elicit cooperation are "power tools" such as fiat, force, and threats. Yugoslavia's Josip Broz Tito wielded such devices effectively. So did Jamie Dimon, current CEO of JPMorgan Chase, during the bank's integration with Bank One. For employees who agree on what they want but not on how to get it—think of Microsoft in 1995—leadership tools, such as vision statements, are more appropriate. Some leaders are blessed with an instinct for choosing the right tools—Continental Airlines' Gordon Bethune, General Electric's Jack Welch, and IBM's Lou Gerstner are all examples. Others can use this framework to help select the most appropriate tools for their circumstances.

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Meeting the Challenge of Corporate Entrepreneurship

Abstract

To be competitive, companies must grow innovative new businesses. Corporate entrepreneurship, however, isn't easy. New ventures face innumerable barriers and seldom mesh smoothly with well-established systems, processes, and cultures. Nonetheless, success requires a balance of old and new organizational traits—and unless companies keep those opposing forces in equilibrium, their new businesses will flounder. The authors describe the challenges companies face when they pursue new businesses, as well as the usual problematic responses to those challenges. Such companies, they say, must perform three balancing acts: 1) Develop strategy by trial and error, which includes narrowing potential choices, learning from small samples, using prototypes to test business models, tracking progress through nonfinancial measures, and knowing how and when to pull the plug on a new venture; 2) Find the best combination of old and new operational processes by staffing new ventures with "mature turks," changing veterans' thinking, knowing which capabilities to develop and which to acquire, and having old and new businesses share responsibility for operating decisions; 3) Strike the right balance of integration and autonomy by assigning both corporate and operating sponsors to new ventures, establishing criteria for handoffs to existing divisions, and using creative organizational structures. The authors provide a detailed look at IBM's Emerging Business Opportunity system, which manages all these balancing acts simultaneously.

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Emerging Giants: Building World-Class Companies in Developing Countries

Abstract

Over the past twenty years, waves of liberalization have all but washed away protectionist barriers in developing countries. As multinational corporations from North America, Western Europe, Japan, and South Korea stormed into the emerging markets, many local companies lost market share or sold off businesses—but some fought back. India's Mahindra & Mahindra, China's Haier Group, and many other corporations in developing countries have held their own against the onslaught, restructured their businesses, exploited new opportunities, and built world-class companies that are today giving their global rivals a run for their money. In this article, the authors, citing the results of their six-year study of "emerging giants," describe the three strategies these businesses used to become effective global competitors—despite facing financial and bureaucratic disadvantages in their home markets. Some capitalized on their knowledge of local product markets. The Philippines' Jollibee Foods, for instance, has profitably battled McDonald's because it realizes that Filipinos like their burgers to have a particular soy and garlic taste. Some have exploited their knowledge of local talent and capital markets, thereby serving customers both at home and abroad in a cost-effective manner. India's software companies, for instance, recognized the possibility of providing services to overseas customers at least a decade before Western companies even considered hiring Indian software professionals. And some emerging giants have exploited institutional voids to create profitable businesses. China's Emerge Logistics, for instance, helps foreign companies navigate the country's disjointed transportation system and baffling bureaucracy, guiding them all the way from ports to retail outlets. The authors' research indicates there's more than one way to skin the proverbial cat: Some emerging-market companies compete in several countries, but others sell only at home.

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How Much Is a Seat on the Security Council Worth? Foreign Aid and Bribery at the United Nations

Abstract

Ten of the fifteen seats on the U.N. Security Council are held by rotating members serving two-year terms. We find that a country's U.S. aid increases by 59 percent and its U.N. aid by 8 percent when it rotates onto the council. This effect increases during years in which key diplomatic events take place (when members' votes should be especially valuable) and the timing of the effect closely tracks a country's election to, and exit from, the council. Finally, the U.N. results appear to be driven by UNICEF, an organization over which the United States has historically exerted great control.

Can Science Be a Business?

Abstract

In 1976, Genentech, the first biotechnology company, was founded by a young venture capitalist and a university professor to exploit recombinant DNA technology. Thirty years and more than $300 billion in investments later, only a handful of biotech firms have matched Genentech's success or even shown a profit. No avalanche of new drugs has hit the market, and the long-awaited breakthrough in R&D productivity has yet to materialize. This disappointing performance raises a question: Can organizations motivated by the need to make profits and please shareholders successfully conduct basic scientific research as a core activity? The question has largely been ignored, despite intense debate over whether business's invasion of basic science—long the domain of universities and nonprofit research institutions—is limiting access to discoveries, thereby slowing advances in science. Biotech has not lived up to its promise, says the author, because its anatomy, which has worked well in other high-tech sectors, can't handle the fundamental challenges facing drug R&D: profound, persistent uncertainty and high risks rooted in the limited knowledge of human biology; the need for the diverse disciplines involved in drug discovery to work together in an integrated fashion; and barriers to learning, including tacit knowledge and murky intellectual property rights, which can slow the pace of scientific advance. A more suitable anatomy would include increased vertical integration; a smaller number of closer, longer collaborations; an emphasis by universities on sharing rather than patenting scientific discoveries; more cross-disciplinary academic research; and more federal and private funding for translational research, which bridges basic and applied science. With such modifications, science can be a business.

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