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.

May 29

Overcoming resistance to change

Most organizations contain their share of change agents—people who make things happen through smarts, savvy, force of will, or by virtue of their title. But how do these instigators overcome entrenched resistance? Researchers Julie Battilana and Tiziana Casciaro look at the role of personal networks in providing needed leverage in the Management Science paper, "Overcoming Resistance to Organizational Change: Strong Ties and Affective Cooptation."

A definition of strategy

Every businessperson wants an effective strategy, but just what is strategy at the end of the day? In a new paper, Eric J. Van den Steen offers this definition: "The smallest set of choices and decisions sufficient to guide all other choices and decisions." In "A Theory of Explicitly Formulated Strategy," he discusses characteristics that make a decision strategic, explains how having a strategy creates value, and offers thoughts on developing an optimal strategy.

Comparing Amazon and eBay

Two online pioneers are the subjects of a case that investigates the interactions of competing online business models. Amazon, following a retail model, and eBay, a platform business model, have been competing for the attention of shoppers for more than a decade. The case sets the stage for a variety of student discussions on, among other topics, overcoming barriers to entry, first-mover effects, and competitive response. The case, "eBay, Inc. and Amazon.com (A)," was written by Ramon Casadesus-Masanell Anant Thaker.

 

Publications

Overcoming Resistance to Organizational Change: Strong Ties and Affective Cooptation

Abstract

We propose a relational theory of how change agents in organizations use the strength of ties in their network to overcome resistance to change. We argue that strong ties to potentially influential organization members who are ambivalent about a change (fence-sitters) provide the change agent with an affective basis to co-opt them. This cooptation increases the probability that the organization will adopt the change. By contrast, strong ties to potentially influential organization members who disapprove of a change outright (resistors) are an effective means of affective cooptation only when a change diverges little from institutionalized practices. With more divergent changes, the advantages of strong ties to resistors accruing to the change agent are weaker and may yet turn into liabilities that reduce the likelihood of change adoption. Analyses of longitudinal data from 68 multi-method case studies of organizational change initiatives conducted at the National Health Service in the United Kingdom support these predictions and advance a relational view of organizational change in which social networks operate as tools of political influence through affective mechanisms.

In Search of the Hybrid Ideal

Abstract

An abstract is unavailable at this time.

Read the paper: http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/in_search_of_the_hybrid_ideal

Coordinating Marketing and Sales in B2B Organizations

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the topic of coordinating marketing and sales in Business-to-Business (B2B) organizations. It provides an historical overview, indicating that this is not a new issue facing firms, that the business press has outlined a recurring set of prescriptive advice about the topic to practitioners, and why (despite its recurring nature) that advice seems to have limited usefulness. The chapter then reviews some common delineations of marketing and sales activities in companies and the implications. Finally, the chapter concludes with a sample of what B2B companies have done in their attempts to improve marketing-sales coordination, including suggestions for future research.

Publisher's Link: http://www.e-elgar.com/bookentry_main.lasso?currency=UK&id=13964

What Do Managers Do? Exploring Persistent Performance Differences among Seemingly Similar Enterprises

Abstract

An abstract is unavailable at this time.

Publisher's Link: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/9889.html

Randomized Government Safety Inspections Reduce Worker Injuries with No Detectable Job Loss

Abstract

Controversy surrounds occupational health and safety regulators, with some observers claiming that workplace regulations damage firms' competitiveness and destroy jobs, and others arguing that they make workplaces safer at little cost to employers and employees. We analyzed a natural field experiment to examine how workplace safety inspections affected injury rates and other outcomes. We compared 409 randomly inspected establishments in California with 409 matched-control establishments that were eligible, but not chosen, for inspection. Compared with controls, randomly inspected employers experienced a 9.4% decline in injury rates (95% confidence interval = -0.177 to -0.021) and a 26% reduction in injury cost (95% confidence interval = -0.513 to -0.083). We find no evidence that these improvements came at the expense of employment, sales, credit ratings, or firm survival.

Publisher's Link: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6083/907

 

Working Papers

Defense Acquisition Reform, 1960-2009: An Elusive Goal

Abstract

An abstract is unavailable at this time.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/11-120.pdf

A Theory of Explicitly Formulated Strategy

Abstract

When a CEO tries to formulate "a strategy," what is she looking for? What exactly is "a strategy," why does it matter, and what are its properties? This paper defines an explicitly formulated "strategy" as the smallest set of choices and decisions sufficient to guide all other choices and decisions, which formally captures the idea of strategy as a plan boiled down to its most essential choices. I show that this definition coincides with the equilibrium outcome of a game where a person can-at a cost-look ahead, investigate, and announce a set of (intended or actual) choices to the rest of the organization. Strategy is also-in some precise sense-the smallest set of decisions that needs to be decided centrally to ensure that all decisions are consistent (by giving a clear direction). The paper analyzes what characteristics make a decision "strategic" and when and how having a strategy creates value, including when a strategy "bet" can create value. It shows how understanding the structure of strategy may enable a strategist to develop the optimal strategy without a comprehensive optimization. And it derives some broader organizational implications.

Download the paper: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/12-102.pdf

 

Cases & Course Materials

Heavy Metal (A): Baosteel Enters Brazil

Regina M. Abrami and Iacob Koch-Weser
Harvard Business School Case 912-411

What is Baosteel, a top Chinese steelmaker, doing in Brazil? The company is responding to the Chinese government's "go global" policy and to the possible rise in iron ore input costs. But steel mills are complex, capital-intensive projects, and Brazil is an emerging market that poses manifold risks to foreign investors. Vale do Rio Doce, Baosteel's prospective partner, is an iron miner with little experience in steelmaking. Baosteel must evaluate whether it is choosing the right country, partner, and site for its first overseas greenfield investment.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/912411-PDF-ENG

Heavy Metal (B): Baosteel Enters Brazil

Regina M. Abrami and Iacob Koch-Weser
Harvard Business School Supplement 912-412

This case begins with Baosteel's decision to build a steel mill in Brazil with Vale do Rio Doce, the world's leading iron mining company. Regulatory obstacles and unexpected costs have placed the project in jeopardy. Outside Brazil, however, Baosteel has been growing rapidly, and market trends favor an overseas plant. Baosteel must decide whether or not to continue its efforts to build a steel plant in Brazil.

Purchase this supplement:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/912412-PDF-ENG

Heavy Metal (C): Baosteel Enters Brazil

Regina M. Abrami and Iacob Koch-Weser
Harvard Business School Case 912-413

The case begins with Baosteel's renewed effort at building a steel mill in Brazil with Vale do Rio Doce. But again, the company runs into problems with obtaining regulatory approvals. This is compounded by the global financial crisis that seriously impacts the global steel industry. How will Baosteel react to this adverse situation?

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/912413-PDF-ENG

Boston Physicians Devices

Marc L. Bertoneche
Harvard Business School Case 212-070

The case is a very simple, short case based on the author's general experience, to introduce financial analysis and to discuss the pressure introduced by growth in a risky business (high R&D).

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/212070-PDF-ENG

eBay, Inc. and Amazon.com (A)

Ramon Casadesus-Masanell and Anant Thaker
Harvard Business School Case 712-405

This case has been designed to explore strategic interactions among organizations with different business models. The case considers how a competitor successfully challenged the incumbent in a platform market defined by strong network effects and high switching costs. The case allows students to assess the advantages and disadvantages of eBay's platform business model in comparison to Amazon's retail business model; to evaluate business model performance when value loops of two industry players interact; to analyze how Amazon expanded its business model and overcame barriers to entry in a platform market that generates winner-take-all effects for first movers; to discuss how eBay can respond to the new competitive dynamic, exploring both tactical and strategic interactions; and to assess the strategic implications of eBay's 2011 acquisition of GSI Commerce.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/712405-PDF-ENG

Purchase this supplement:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/712406-PDF-ENG

Dirigo International

Christopher M. Gordon and Chad M. Carr
Harvard Business School Case 212-056

Dirigo International is proposing a major expansion of their life sciences research and manufacturing facilities in the heart of a major city and middle- to lower-income residential neighborhood. The company and city government are seeking a development solution in the form of unique land use regulations and a resulting development strategy that weighs the financial, economic, aesthetic, and environmental impacts of the development. Companies and governments around the world often find themselves on opposite sides of land use proposals. This case demonstrates the dilemmas and tradeoffs related to private land owner rights and the role of government in seeking positive outcomes for broader society. Case students will rigorously look at issues of development density, funding responsibilities, financial capacity, land use regulation, and development politics.

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/212056-PDF-ENG

The China Entrepreneurs Forum

William C. Kirby, G.A. Donovan, and Tracy Yuen Manty
Harvard Business School Case 312-095

Some of China's most successful entrepreneurs and founders of private enterprises naturally came together to share the insights and tactics that helped them and their businesses survive and thrive in China's rapidly changing business environment. Soon, the group's mandate expanded to include improving the environment for private business in China and conducting outreach to help spread the word about the important role entrepreneurs played in a modern market economy. How has the China Entrepreneurs Forum been an innovative business and social organization in modern China? What lies in the future for them?

Purchase this case:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/312095-PDF-ENG

CityCenter (E): Blow up the Harmon?

John D. Macomber
Harvard Business School Supplement 212-092

Casino owner considers whether to implode, complete, or do nothing with a 26 story vacant new building on the Las Vegas Strip. This case continues a series of pieces about the progress of CityCenter, an $11 billion project in Las Vegas said to be the largest private construction project in the history of the United States. As in the prior observations of this project, issues around measurement of demand, architecture, construction, scheduling, and finance all interact. At the time of the case, court hearings have just started with a possible swing in the outcomes of $600 million.

Purchase this supplement:
http://cb.hbsp.harvard.edu/cb/product/212092-PDF-ENG