Leadership & Management: Decision Making & Problem Solving

100 Results

 

Teaching The Deal

In his Negotiation and Deals courses, Kevin Mohan uses his VC experience to teach students that showing emotion, asking questions, and understanding your own strengths and weaknesses can be key to a successful agreement. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

In Venture Capital, Birds of a Feather Lose Money Together

The more affinity there is between two VCs investing in a firm, the less likely the firm will succeed, according to research by Paul Gompers, Yuhai Xuan and Vladimir Mukharlyamov. Open for comment; 7 Comments posted.

‘My Bad!’ How Internal Attribution and Ambiguity of Responsibility Affect Learning from Failure

As scholars and practitioners have observed, failure clearly presents a valuable opportunity for learning in organizations. All too often, however, the opportunity is lost. Indeed, prior studies on the topic suggest that, perhaps ironically, such learning often fails to occur. In this paper the authors begin to uncover when and why individuals are more likely to learn from failed experiences. Specifically, they present evidence from three studies that support a conceptual model of learning from failure as operating through individuals' internal attributions of failure, driven in part by low ambiguity of responsibility, that lead to increased learning effort and subsequent improvement. The paper thus makes theoretical advances and carries implications for managers. Theoretically, the authors focus attention on the role of attribution in learning from failure, showing that attribution style is an important moderator of the relationship between failure and learning. Next, they identify a key situational determinant of individuals' responses to failure: ambiguity of responsibility. Third, they highlight the key role of effort as a mechanism for the effects of learning from failure. For managers, these results emphasize a specific measure that organizational leaders might take before an experience to enhance learning: actively managing perceptions of ambiguity of responsibility. Read More

Reflecting on Work Improves Job Performance

New research by Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano, and colleagues shows that taking time to reflect on our work improves job performance in the long run. Open for comment; 25 Comments posted.

Learning By Thinking: How Reflection Improves Performance

Knowledge plays an important role in the productivity and prosperity of economies, organizations, and individuals. Even so, research on learning has primarily focused on the role of doing (experience) in fostering progress over time. To compare the effectiveness of different sources of learning, the authors take a micro approach and study learning at the individual level. They argue that learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection—that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience. Using a mixed-method approach that combines laboratory experiments and a field study in a large business process outsourcing company in India, they find support for this prediction. Further, they find that the effect of reflection on learning is mediated by greater perceived ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy). Together, these results reveal reflection to be a powerful mechanism behind learning, confirming the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey: "We do not learn from experience ... we learn from reflecting on experience." Read More

Book Excerpt: The Good Struggle: Responsible Leadership in an Unforgiving World

In a turbulent, sometimes dangerous world, responsible leaders need a broader view of critical decisions. An excerpt from Joseph L. Badaracco's new book. Read More

Responsible Leadership in an Unforgiving World

In a provocative new book, Joseph Badaracco argues that our world is increasingly characterized by struggle—for labor, technology, funds, and partners. Leaders who embrace that struggle can also reap its rewards. Closed for comment; 5 Comments posted.

Is Leadership an Increasingly Difficult Balancing Act?

Summing Up: Do we long for the days of the conventional authority figure? Jim Heskett sums up this month's column. Closed for comment; 19 Comments posted.

Is There Still a Role for Judgment in Decision-Making?

Summing Up: Human judgment should be a part of all decisions, but play a dominant role in significantly fewer of them, according to many of Jim Heskett's readers. Is good old-fashioned intuition out of date? What do YOU think? Closed for comment; 47 Comments posted.

Why Unqualified Candidates Get Hired Anyway

Why do businesses evaluate candidates solely on past job performance, failing to consider the job's difficulty? Why do university admissions officers focus on high GPAs, discounting influence of easy grading standards? Francesca Gino and colleagues investigate the phenomenon of the "fundamental attribution error." Closed for comment; 24 Comments posted.

Is Your iPhone Turning You Into a Wimp?

The body posture inherent in operating everyday gadgets affects not only your back, but your behavior. According to a new study by Maarten Bos and Amy Cuddy, operating a relatively large device inspires more assertive behavior than working on a small one. Closed for comment; 20 Comments posted.

Pulling Campbell’s Out of the Soup

Campbell Soup had lost its way when Douglas Conant took charge in 2001. His first task: get out of his quiet zone and apply bold measures. Open for comment; 5 Comments posted.

Sidetracked: Why Can’t We Stick to the Plan?

In her new book, Sidetracked, behavioral scientist and professor Francesca Gino explores the unexpected forces that often keep people from following through with their plans, both professional and personal. Closed for comment; 12 Comments posted.

Why a Harvard Finance Instructor Went to the Kumbh Mela

Every 12 years, millions of Hindu pilgrims travel to the Indian city of Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela, the largest public gathering in the world. In this first-person account, Senior Lecturer John Macomber shares his first impressions and explains what he's doing there. Closed for comment; 12 Comments posted.

Should Managers Bother Listening to Predictions?

Summing Up Should we use predictions at all when planning for the future? Jim Heskett's readers offer a variety of opinions. What do YOU think? Closed for comment; 38 Comments posted.

Book Excerpt: Harder Than I Thought

Harder Than I Thought: Adventures of a Twenty-First Century Leader invites readers to critique the fictional journey of Jim Barton, the new CEO of a west coast aerospace firm. The book was written by business scholars Robert Austin, Richard Nolan, and Shannon O'Donnell. Open for comment; 3 Comments posted.

HBS Cases: Against the Grain

Dealing with pervasive, institutionalized corruption is tough but not impossible. A new case study on Tanzania joins a series of cases in professor Karthik Ramanna's research that explore the deep-seated problems of corruption as well as multiple entrepreneurial paths to combat it. Open for comment; 7 Comments posted.

Book Excerpt: Judgment Calls

In their book Judgment Calls, Visiting Professor Thomas H. Davenport and independent consultant Brook Manville share the tales of several organizations that made successful choices through collective judgment. Read our excerpt on growing pains at Tweezerman. Open for comment; 3 Comments posted.

Are You Paying a Tip--or a Bribe?

Both are rewards for service, so why is one considered outside the boundaries of ethical behavior? Harvard Business School professor Magnus Thor Torfason on the thin line. Closed for comment; 24 Comments posted.

Are You a Strategist?

Corporate strategy has become the bailiwick of consultants and business analysts, so much so that it is no longer a top-of-mind responsibility for many senior executives. Professor Cynthia A. Montgomery says it's time for CEOs to again become strategists. Closed for comment; 43 Comments posted.

The Unconscious Executive

Postdoctoral fellow Maarten Bos investigates how unconscious processes improve decision-making. Conscious deliberation, it turns out, does not always lead to the best outcomes. Closed for comment; 26 Comments posted.

Better by the Bunch: Evaluating Job Candidates in Groups

The key to avoiding gender stereotyping in the hiring process lies in evaluating job candidates as a group, rather than one at a time. So says new research by Iris Bohnet, Alexandra van Geen, and Max H. Bazerman. Open for comment; 6 Comments posted.

The Business of Life

Scholarly economic theory applies to more than just business. The same causal mechanisms that drive big corporations to success can be just as effective in driving our personal lives, says Professor Clayton M. Christensen. Closed for comment; 9 Comments posted.

The Flattened Firm—Not as Advertised

For decades, management consultants and the popular business press have urged large firms to flatten their hierarchies. Flattening (or delayering, as it is also known) typically refers to the elimination of layers in a firm's organizational hierarchy, and the broadening of managers' spans of control. While flattening is said to reduce costs, its alleged benefits flow primarily from changes in internal governance: by pushing decisions downward, firms not only enhance customer and market responsiveness, but also improve accountability and morale. But has flattening actually delivered on its promise and pushed decisions down to lower-level managers? In this paper, Julie Wulf shows that flattening actually can lead to exactly the opposite effects from what it promises to do. Wulf used a large-scale panel data set of reporting relationships, job descriptions, and compensation structures in a sample of over 300 large U.S. firms over roughly a 15-year period. This historical data analysis was complemented with exploratory interviews with executives (what CEOs say) and analysis of data on executive time use (what CEOs do). Results suggest that flattening transferred some decision rights from lower-level division managers to functional managers at the top. Flattening is also associated with increased CEO involvement with direct reports—the second level of top management—suggesting a more hands-on CEO at the pinnacle of the hierarchy. In sum, flattening at the top is a complex phenomenon that in the end looks more like centralization. Yet it is crucial to consider different types of decisions and activities and how they vary by level in the hierarchy. Read More

Clayton Christensen’s “How Will You Measure Your Life?”

World-renowned innovation expert Clayton M. Christensen explores the personal benefits of business research in the forthcoming book How Will You Measure Your Life? Coauthored with James Allworth and Karen Dillon, the book explains how well-tested academic theories can help us find meaning and happiness not just at work, but in life. Open for comment; 75 Comments posted.

When Performance Trumps Gender Bias: Joint versus Separate Evaluation

Gender-based discrimination in hiring, promotion, and job assignments is difficult to overcome. This paper suggests a new intervention aimed at avoiding biased assessments: an "evaluation nudge," in which employees are evaluated jointly rather than separately regarding their future performance. While joint evaluation is common for most hiring decisions, especially at the lower levels, it is rarely used when job assignments and promotions are being considered. The research shows that a joint-evaluation mode succeeds in helping employers choose based on past performance, irrespective of an employee's gender and the implicit stereotypes the employer may hold. While it is not always feasible to bundle promotion decisions and explicitly compare candidates, the research suggests that, whenever possible, joint evaluation would increase both efficiency and equality. Findings have implications for organizations that want to decrease the likelihood that hiring, promotion, and job-assignment decisions will be based on irrelevant criteria triggered by stereotypes. Read More

Crowded at the Top: The Rise of the Functional Manager

It's not lonely at the top anymore—today's CEO has an average of 10 direct reports, according to new research by Julie M. Wulf, Maria Guadalupe, and Hongyi Li. Thank a dramatic increase in the number of "functional" managers for crowding in the C-suite. Open for comment; 13 Comments posted.

Learning from My Success and From Others’ Failure: Evidence from Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery

The importance of failure in the learning process is well recognized. In organizations as work grows increasingly fragmented—more specialized and divided into smaller tasks—the role of individuals in organizational learning becomes more important. This paper examines how individuals learn directly from their own past experience, and indirectly from the past experience of others. Focusing on one particular performance outcome, the quality of surgeries, findings indicate that individuals learn the most from their own successes and the failures of others, possibly because in both cases they attribute the outcomes to internal rather than external factors. This research has implications for healthcare and organizations more generally. Research by KC Diwas, Bradley R. Staats, and Francesca Gino. Read More

Are Creative People More Dishonest?

In a series of studies, Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely found that inherently creative people tend to cheat more than noncreative people. Furthermore, they showed that inducing creative behavior tends to induce unethical behavior. It's a sobering thought in a corporate culture that champions out-of-the-box thinking. Closed for comment; 87 Comments posted.

Thinking Slow: An Argument for Bureaucracy?

Summing Up Readers of Jim Heskett's column this month offer guidelines for when to think fast and when to think slow, from author Daniel Kahneman's book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. Open for comment; 26 Comments posted.

The Organization of Firms Across Countries

Economists have been paying increasing attention to the role that culture plays in a firm's overall performance. This paper focuses on how trust—a key cultural factor—affects firms' decision-making process, size, and productivity. Research was conducted by Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University, Rafaella Sadun of the Harvard Business School, and John Van Reenen of the London School of Economics. Read More

How Will the ‘Moneyball Generation’ Influence Management?

Sum-up Nontraditional performance measures, as highlighted in the movie 'Moneyball', will become an increasingly important part of the young manager's toolkit, Jim Heskett's readers say. Closed for comment; 10 Comments posted.

How Dangerous Is Common Sense to Managers?

Forum Closed Summing Up: Is experience really the best teacher? Sure—when not much is on the line, according to readers commenting on Professor Jim Heskett's column on common sense. Closed for comment; 65 Comments posted.

Looking in the Mirror: Questions Every Leader Must Ask

"Show me a company or nonprofit or government in trouble, and I will almost invariably show you a set of leaders who are asking absolutely the wrong questions," says professor Robert Steven Kaplan. He discusses his new book, What to Ask the Person in the Mirror. Plus: book excerpt. Closed for comment; 19 Comments posted.

How Ethical Can We Be?

Summing Up Managers like to think they act ethically, but at the end of the day ethical action is subjective, readers tell Jim Heskett. Reaction to the new book Blind Spots. Closed for comment; 38 Comments posted.

When Smaller Menus are Better: Variability in Menu-Setting Ability and 401(k) Plans

Economists love menus, which can be used to help understand people's choices. For example, do we prefer more choices (larger menu) or fewer (shorter menu)? But the menu itself has to be pre-selected. Research by David Goldreich (Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto) and Hanna Halaburda (Harvard Business School) focuses on the menu setter's decisions about what to include, and how large a menu to construct in the context of 401(k) plan choices. Read More

Blind Spots: We’re Not as Ethical as We Think

Even when we think we are making principled decisions, recent research reveals we are not as ethical as we would like to believe. Professor Max H. Bazerman discusses his new book, Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What's Right and What to Do about It. Plus: Book excerpt. Open for comment; 12 Comments posted.

Top Executive Background and Financial Reporting Choice: The Case of Goodwill Impairment

In the management literature, some theories hold that corporate actions and strategic choices can be partially predicted by knowing the functional background of executives. The authors provide evidence on how CEOs and CFOs who were former investment bankers, auditors, and private equity/venture capital executives managed decisions around goodwill impairments (essentially goodwill charge-offs)—a complex accounting choice involving a high degree of managerial discretion. Research by HBS professor Francois Brochet and doctoral candidate Kyle Welch. Read More

Delay as Agenda Setting

A common business (and life) practice involves delaying a decision in order to avoid immediate commitment. James J. Anton (Fuqua School of Business) and Dennis A. Yao (HBS) discuss ways in which delaying or, alternatively, speeding up commitment can be a valuable tactic, how these tactics influence the actions of other decision makers, and ways in which such actions affect other decisions. Changing the speed at which a decision is made affects how others allocate resources to influence how that and other decisions will eventually be made. The researchers identify two tactics associated with changing decision speed: "pinning" and "focusing." Read More

What Do CEOs Do?

If time is money, as the old adage goes, then a CEO's schedule is especially important to a firm's financial success. This raises a fair question: What do CEOs do all day? To that end, researchers followed the activities of 94 CEOs in Italy over the course of a pre-specified week, enlisting the CEOs' personal assistants to track their bosses' activities with time-use diaries. Research was conducted by Raffaella Sadun of Harvard Business School, Luigi Guiso of the European University Institute, and Oriana Bandiera and Andrea Prat of the London School of Economics. Read More

Are We Thinking Too Little, or Too Much?

In the course of making a decision, managers often err in one of two directions—either overanalyzing a situation or forgoing all the relevant information and simply going with their gut. HBS marketing professor Michael I. Norton discusses the potential pitfalls of thinking too much or thinking too little. Open for comment; 44 Comments posted.

Why Companies Fail--and How Their Founders Can Bounce Back

Leading a doomed company can often help a career by providing experience, insight, and contacts that lead to new opportunities, says professor Shikhar Ghosh. Closed for comment; 35 Comments posted.

Naivete and Cynicism in Negotiations and Other Competitive Contexts

In business and in life, it's important to strike a smart balance between naÔvetť and cynicism. Act too naÔvely, and someone is bound to take advantage of you. Skew cynical, and you may miss out on new opportunities with good people. This paper discusses the decision errors inherent in leaning too far in either direction. Research was conducted by Chia-Jung Tsay, Lisa. L. Shu, and Max H. Bazerman of Harvard Business School. Read More

Making Right Choices: Art or Science?

Summing Up Is choice an art or science? Jim Heskett's readers wonder whether the question is the right one to ask. (Online forum has closed; next forum opens January 6.) Closed for comment; 46 Comments posted.

Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution

Successful business strategy lies not in having all the right answers, but rather in asking the right questions, says Harvard Business School professor Robert Simons. In an excerpt from his new book, Seven Strategy Questions, Simons explains how posing these questions can help managers make smart choices. Read More

Making the Numbers? ‘Short Termism’ & the Puzzle of Only Occasional Disaster

Executives at public companies are always under pressure to "meet the numbers" each quarter, often so much so that they sacrifice long-term investments in order to make everything look rosy in the short term. In this paper, Harvard Business School professor Rebecca M. Henderson and Sloan School of Management professor Nelson P. Repenning set out to reconcile the apparently contradictory strategies of short-term results and long-term investments. Read More

The Distinct Effects of Information Technology and Communication Technology on Firm Organization

At what point in the corporate food chain are big decisions made? It depends on technology, according to new research, which finds that information-based software will help to push decisions further down the corporate ladder, whereas communication technologies will push decisions up to the top. Research was conducted by Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University; Assistant Professor Raffaella Sadun of Harvard Business School; and Luis Garicano and John Van Reenen of the London School of Economics. Read More

Ruthlessly Realistic: How CEOs Must Overcome Denial

Even the best leaders can be in denial—about trouble inside the organization, about onrushing competitors, about changing consumer behavior. Harvard Business School professor Richard S. Tedlow looks at history and discusses how executives can acknowledge and deal with reality. Plus: Book excerpt. Read More

Tragedy at Toyota: How Not to Lead in Crisis

"Toyota can only regain its footing by transforming itself from top to bottom to deliver the highest quality automobiles," says HBS professor Bill George of the beleaguered automobile company that in recent months has recalled 8 million vehicles. He offers seven recommendations for restoring consumer confidence in the safety and quality behind the storied brand. Read More

Manager Visibility No Guarantee of Fixing Problems

Managers who merely put in time "walking the floor" are not doing enough when it comes to problem solving; in fact, it can make employees feel worse about their situation, says HBS professor Anita Tucker. Read More

What’s the Best Way to Make Careful Decisions?

Summing up reader responses, Professor Jim Heskett finds compelling arguments for a process involving intuition based on analysis and experience. Should people also make their own decision-making process more transparent to others and to themselves? (Next forum begins March 3.) Closed for comment; 87 Comments posted.

Going Through the Motions: An Empirical Test of Management Involvement in Process Improvement

How can managers better lead their organizations to improve work processes? Describing their study of hospitals over an 18-month period, HBS professor Anita L. Tucker and Harvard School of Public Health professor Sara J. Singer detail how and why managers' taking action was more effective than their communicating about actions taken. Findings suggest, first, that taking action on known problems in specific work areas on at least a quarterly basis may improve the organizational climate for improvement. Second, the study indicates that managers would be well advised to take action-preferably substantive and intense action-in response to frontline workers' communications about problems. Overall, the research provides insight for senior managers who want to improve their organization's climate for process improvement. Read More

Management and the Financial Crisis (We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us Ö)

We have spent the past year mired in a global financial crisis that few saw coming and that will plague us for years to come. Such crises are gut-wrenching. Collectively and individually, we search for causes and solutions. Too often, we look for quick fixes that do long‐term damage, or we put the equivalent of duct tape on obvious problems, missing the true root causes. HBS professor William A. Sahlman argues that the macroeconomic problems were the result of terrible microeconomic decisions. The root cause of bad decision‐making resides in the nexus of culture, incentives, control and measurement, accounting, and human capital. We now have a unique opportunity to force a review of all the players in the financial system, from individual consumers to politicians and regulators to management teams at financial services firms. Read More

“I read Playboy for the articles”: Justifying and Rationalizing Questionable Preferences

We want others to find us good, fair, responsible and logical; and we place even more importance on thinking of ourselves this way. Therefore, when people behave in ways that might appear selfish, prejudiced, or perverted, they tend to engage a host of strategies designed to justify questionable behavior with rational excuses: "I hired my son because he's more qualified." "I promoted Ashley because she does a better job than Aisha." Or, "I read Playboy for the articles." In this chapter from a forthcoming book, HBS doctoral student ZoŽ Chance and professor Michael I. Norton describe various means of coping with one's own questionable behavior: through preemptive actions and concurrent strategies for re-framing uncomfortable situations, forgoing decisions, and forgetting those decisions altogether. Read More

A Decision-Making Perspective to Negotiation: A Review of the Past and a Look into the Future

The art and science of negotiation has evolved greatly over the past three decades, thanks to advances in the social sciences in collaboration with other disciplines and in tandem with the practical application of new ideas. In this paper, HBS doctoral student Chia-Jung Tsay and professor Max H. Bazerman review the recent past and highlight promising trends for the future of negotiation research. In the early 1980s, Cambridge, Massachusetts, was a hot spot on the negotiations front, as scholars from different disciplines began interacting in the exploration of exciting new concepts. The field took a big leap forward with the creation of the Program on Negotiation, an interdisciplinary, multicollege research center based at Harvard University. At the same time, Roger Fisher and William Ury's popular book Getting to Yes (1981) had a pronounced impact on how practitioners think about negotiations. On a more scholarly front, a related, yet profoundly different change began with the publication of HBS professor emeritus Howard Raiffa's book The Art and Science of Negotiation (1982), which for years to come transformed how researchers would think about and conduct empirical research. Read More

In Favor of Clear Thinking: Incorporating Moral Rules into a Wise Cost-Benefit Analysis

Policy decisions may be the most important set of decisions we make as a society. In this realm, moral rules often play an active and dysfunctional role. The typical way in which we make decisions—by weighing them individually—leads us to overuse moral rules in a manner that is inconsistent with the more reflective set of preferences we would identify through joint consideration of options. In their response to a companion article in Perspectives on Psychological Science, Max Bazerman, of HBS, and Joshua D. Greene, of Harvard University, argue that cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is unfairly stereotyped. The critique of CBA in the companion article could be better framed as a set of considerations that can contribute to more careful CBAs. Read More

Making the Gambler’s Fallacy Disappear: The Role of Experience

The Gambler's Fallacy refers to the belief that chance is a self correcting process. The longer the random run of one outcome, the stronger the belief that the opposite outcome is due to appear. This paper asks whether the way we acquire information, by sequential experience or by simultaneous description, plays a critical role in the emergence of the bias in a binary prediction task (betting on red or black roulette outcomes, for example). The results show that the fallacy only occurs when decision makers experience outcomes over time and not when past outcomes are revealed all at once. The question is interesting since several recent papers on decisions from experience and descriptions suggest that the way people acquire information can have a significant effect on behavior. Read More

How Can Decision Making Be Improved?

While scholars can describe how people make decisions, and can envision how much better decision-making could be, they still have little understanding of how to help people overcome blind spots and behave optimally. Chugh, Milkman, and Bazerman organize the scattered knowledge that judgment and decision-making scholars have amassed over several decades about how to reduce biased decision-making. Their analysis of the existing literature on improvement strategies is designed to highlight the most promising avenues for future research. Read More

HBS Cases: Walking Away from a $3 Billion Deal

Managers of the ABRY Fund V were so successful they had investors waiting to pour in an additional $3 billion. But to invest that much would require trade-offs that could jeopardize the chemistry that made the fund successful in the first place. Take the money or walk away? From HBS Bulletin. Read More

Why Don’t Managers Think Deeply?

Online forum closed. Summing Up. According to Gerald and Lindsay Zaltman, nearly all research techniques commonly used today probe humans only at their conscious level, though it is the subconscious level that really determines behavior. Closed for comment; 136 Comments posted.

Some Neglected Axioms in Fair Division

This paper considers allocation and bargaining problems, and introduces conditions that one might expect fair procedures to satisfy. However, not all conditions one might hope for can be satisfied simultaneously. Furthermore, some apparently plausible and widely proposed axioms and procedures have consequences whose undesirability clearly goes far beyond what can be excused in this way. Thus pitfalls lurk in the field of fair division. Read More

An Investigation of Earnings Management through Marketing Actions

Earnings management behavior may be divided into two categories: 1) the opportunistic exercise of accounting discretion; and 2) the opportunistic structuring of real transactions. This paper focuses on the latter by providing evidence that managers use retail-level marketing actions (price discounts, feature advertisements, and aisle displays) to influence the timing of consumers' purchases in relation to their firms' fiscal calendars and financial performance. The results will be of interest to practitioners negotiating with suppliers as well as those responsible for setting price and promotion strategy in response to competitor actions, and practitioners responsible for designing incentive-based compensation as well as regulators monitoring reporting of fiscal period-ending promotion. Read More

Embracing Commitment and Performance: CEOs and Practices Used to Manage Paradox

How do chief executives establish strategic practices around their visions and intents? How do such practices make it possible to create both high commitment and high performance? The central puzzle for HBS professor emeritus Michael Beer and colleagues is not the creation of high commitment per se, but the kind of commitment that is useful for the implementation of strategy and sustainable performance. Beer et al. sought out major companies in North America and Europe that had a history of sustainable, above-average financial performance, and where there were indications of the companies being high-commitment organizations. They then conducted in-depth interviews with 26 CEOs of such companies, asking about activities and practices that help create commitment and performance. Read More

How Sustainable Is Sustainability in a For-Profit Organization?

Online forum now closed. For managers, sustainability can mean the integration and intersection of social, environmental, and economic responsibilities. The concept is admirable, says Jim Heskett, but does it also confuse managers entrusted with the bottom line? How should they make trade-offs? Jim sums up reader responses. Closed for comment; 77 Comments posted.

Fair (and Not So Fair) Division

"Fair" could be defined as what people of good will would want to be. This does not constitute an operational definition, however. This paper provides a specific procedure to calculate what could be considered fair and reasonable for various situations that require a fair division. A simple example would be a family that has inherited objects of artistic and/or sentimental value and wants to divide them up fairly while taking into account differences in taste. Laymen, mathematicians, and economists all have their own proposals for creating a fair division. Pratt suggests a procedure that, when put to the test of a range of examples, produces outcomes that accord with our intuitive sense of what is fair and desirable while previously proposed procedures do not. Read More

Why We Aren’t as Ethical as We Think We Are: A Temporal Explanation

People commonly predict that they will behave more ethically in the future than they actually do. When evaluating past (un)ethical behavior, they also believe they behaved more ethically than they actually did. These misperceptions, both of prediction and of recollection, have important ramifications for the distinction between how ethical we think we are and how ethical we really are, as well as understanding how such misperceptions are perpetuated over time. This paper draws on recent research in psychology and decision-making to gain insight into these forces. It also provides recommendations for reducing them. Read More

How Do Managers Think?

"Uncertainty sometimes is essential for success" asserts a new book, How Doctors Think. The work of doctors raises intriguing questions about managing, says Jim Heskett, since diagnostics are an important part of managerial decision-making, too. Jim sums up nearly 60 responses from readers around the world, including practicing physicians. Closed for comment; 59 Comments posted.

Feeling Stuck? Getting Past Impasse

Feeling "stuck," as psychologically painful as it is, is the first step to awareness of new opportunities in career and in life, says Harvard Business School's Timothy Butler. In this Q&A and excerpt from his new book, Getting Unstuck, he explains six steps for getting from here to there. Read More

Managing Know-How

For many firms, the ability to create, organize, and disseminate know-how is a key factor in their ability to succeed. But should all companies engage in formal knowledge management? If not, which companies derive most value from a formal knowledge system? Conditional on implementing such a system, should the company focus more on learning from successes or learning from failures? Should such knowledge systems simply capture all experience, or should they be more selective? This paper develops and applies an economic framework to examine these questions. Read More

Negotiating When the Rules Suddenly Change

Following the adoption of a collective bargaining agreement in 2005, National Hockey League GMs had one month to absorb the new rules and put a team together. How to best negotiate in an uncertain environment? Michael Wheeler advises looking to military science for winning strategies. Read More

When Not to Trust Your Gut

Most of us trust our intuition more than we should, especially when the pressure is on in negotiations. Professors Max Bazerman and Deepak Malhotra on negotiating more rationally. From Negotiation. Read More

Why CEOs Are Not Plug-and-Play

Company-specific skills may be valuable in a new job under the right conditions, say Harvard Business School's Boris Groysberg, Andrew N. McLean, and Nitin Nohria. They studied GE; here's an excerpt from Harvard Business Review. Read More

Looking Behind Bad Decisions

In a recent HBS Working Paper, HBS professor Max Bazerman and colleagues explore how biases and human psychology impede policy-making efforts that could vastly improve people's lives. Read More

The Truck Driver Who Reinvented Shipping

Malcolm P. McLean (1914-2001) hit on an idea to dramatically reduce labor and dock servicing time. An excerpt from In Their Time: The Greatest Business Leaders of the Twentieth Century by Harvard Business School's Anthony J. Mayo and Nitin Nohria. Read More

Effects of Task Difficulty on Use of Advice

We make most of our choices by weighing other people's advice counter to our own opinions. People generally underweight advice from others, though the practice is not universal. In two studies, it is determined that people overweight advice on difficult tasks but underweight it on the easy ones. Read More

Balancing the Future Against Today’s Needs

It's hard to dream five years out when your organization is doing all it can to take care of the here and now. This article from Harvard Management Update offers a new lens for positioning growth efforts within your company while staying focused on your core strengths today. Read More

Asian and American Leadership Styles: How Are They Unique?

Business leadership is at the core of Asian economic development, says HBS professor D. Quinn Mills. As he explained recently in Kuala Lumpur, the American and Asian leadership styles, while very different, also share important similarities. Read More

Don’t Listen to “Yes”

It's essential for leaders to spark conflict in their organizations, as long as it is constructive. A Q&A with Professor Michael Roberto, author of the new book Why Great Leaders Don't Take Yes for an Answer. Read More

If You Blink, Will You Miss?

Malcolm Gladwell's popular new book is about the power of snap judgements and the ways in which people develop the ability to make them. Can—and should—people make typical business decisions in the blink of an eye? Closed for comment; 30 Comments posted.

Should the Wisdom of Crowds Influence Our Thinking About Leadership?

New research suggests that large groups of people are better than a few experts at everything from estimating the true magnitude of things to diagnosing causes of problems to predicting outcomes. If this is correct, what does it say about the true nature of effective leadership? Closed for comment; 26 Comments posted.

Planning for Surprises

A company doesn't need a crystal ball to see impending disasters. Harvard Business School professor Max H. Bazerman and INSEAD professor Michael D. Watkins explain how to foresee and avoid predictable surprises. Read More

Do We Listen to Advice Just Because We Paid for It? The Impact of Cost of Advice on Its Use

People make decisions every day by weighing their own opinions with advice from other sources. But do we know whether people use advice in a way that is helpful to them? In two experiments performed under controlled, laboratory conditions, Gino found that all else being equal, people weigh advice differently according to the amount of money they pay for it. Also, the cost of advice affects the degree to which people use it. Read More

The New Global Business Manager

What are the critical skills global managers need today compared to ten years ago? An interview with Harvard Business School professor Christopher A. Bartlett. Read More

HBS Cases: Developing the Courage to Act

Professor David A. Garvin offers a rare inside glimpse at how the case method is used by both faculty and students in classrooms at Harvard Business School. Read More

Shackleton: An Entrepreneur of Survival

Polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton is the subject of a new HBS case study. Professor Nancy F. Koehn discusses lessons for leaders from the voyage of the Endurance. Read More

What Can Aspiring Leaders Be Taught?

Let’s say you are left in charge of an MBA program. How would you and your students sort through the tensions in corporate life vis-à-vis society, employees, and investors? How would you build those learnings into your program and make them stick? Closed for comment; 38 Comments posted.

Stuck in Gear: Why Managers Don’t Act

Most top executives are smart and far sighted, so why can't they change gears fast enough to meet change? Professor Donald N. Sull provides answers in a new book. Read More

SEC Commissioner Sees “Healing and Reform”

SEC Commissioner Harvey J. Goldschmid blames corporate failures in part on inadequate gatekeepers, but sees healing in history. Read More

Three Steps for Crisis Prevention

Can you predict a business disaster? In this Harvard Business Review excerpt, professors Michael D. Watkins and Max H. Bazerman outline the keys for disaster prevention: recognition, prioritization, and mobilization. Read More

Can Business Schools Teach the Craft of Getting Things Done?

No one doubts business schools are expert at teaching management theory. But what about teaching real-world basics? In short, can students be taught execution? Closed for comment; 25 Comments posted.

The Parable of the Bungled Baggage And the Unhappy Customer

Sometimes a seemingly harmless corporate decision such as a budget trim can lead to big problems elsewhere. HBS professor W. Earl Sasser tells what happens when budget constraints and customers collide. Read More

Your Crisis Response Plan: The Ten Effective Elements

Shooter on site. Epidemic. Major power outage. Is your organization prepared to deal with crisis? HBS professor Michael Watkins explains what you need to know, and offers a checklist to evaluate your preparedness. Read More

High-Stakes Decision Making: The Lessons of Mount Everest

On May 10, 1996, five mountaineers from two teams perished while climbing Mount Everest. Is there anything business leaders can learn from the tragedy? HBS professor Michael A. Roberto used the tools of management to find out. Plus: Q&A with Michael Roberto Read More

Reinventing the Industrial Giant

It's not easy to transform a trusty but ailing old stalwart. In an excerpt from their book, Changing Fortunes: Remaking the Industrial Corporation, HBS professor Nitin Nohria and co-authors Davis Dyer and Frederick Dalzell discuss how General Motors and Kodak are attempting precisely that. Read More

Disruption: The Art of Framing

Your chief competitor creates a breakthrough technology. Should you frame that event inside your company as a threat or opportunity? The answer in this Harvard Business Review excerpt by HBS professors Clark Gilbert and Joseph L. Bower just may surprise you. Read More

What You Don’t Know About Making Decisions

As you weigh the options for your company's next step, how do you decide which way to turn? HBS professors David A. Garvin and Michael A. Roberto offer some tips in this excerpt from Harvard Business Review. Plus: Q&A with Garvin and Roberto Read More