First Look

April 1, 2008

What can information technology strategists learn from Japan's Shinsei Bank? Writing in the Harvard Business Review, HBS professor David M. Upton and doctoral candidate Bradley R. Staats describe how Shinsei Bank designed, built, and rolled out a new enterprise system far cheaper and faster than a traditional one. Its unique approach, according to the authors, relied on simplicity, modularity, and a sophisticated feedback system. As they write, "If you adopt the path-based approach, you'll get flexible systems that can change as the business demands and that can shift IT from being a simple platform for existing operations to a launchpad for new functions and brand-new businesses." Also up this week: a case on the turning point facing Argentina's best-known soccer club, and cases on a variety of challenges and opportunities in management education, with examples from INSEAD, Stanford Graduate School of Business, the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Yale School of Management, and the Center for Creative Leadership.
— Martha Lagace

Working Papers

Mental Accounting and Small Windfalls: Evidence from an Online Grocer


We study the effect of small windfalls on consumer-spending decisions by examining the purchasing behavior of a sample of online grocery shoppers over the course of a year. We compare the purchases customers make when redeeming a $10-off coupon they received from their online grocer with the purchases the same customers make when shopping without a coupon. Controlling for customer-fixed effects and other relevant variables, we find that grocery spending increases by $1.59 with the use of a $10-off coupon. In addition, even though the receipt of a $10-off coupon does not correspond to a meaningful increase in wealth, the extra spending associated with the redemption of such a coupon is focused on "marginal" grocery items, or grocery items that a customer does not typically buy. These findings are consistent with a simple mental accounting model but are not consistent with the standard permanent income or lifecycle theory of consumption.

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Cases & Course Materials

The Center for Creative Leadership

Harvard Business School Case 308-013

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) was founded in 1970 on the notion that leadership was not innate but could be learned. CCL evolved into one of the world's top leadership development organizations, involved in both research and program design and delivery. This case explores CCL's approach to leadership and management education for executives and presents some of the challenges the CCL faces as many different types of leadership development providers continue to emerge.

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Club Atlético Boca Juniors

Harvard Business School Case 508-056

Club Atlético Boca Juniors is the most popular soccer club in Argentina and one of the most decorated clubs in the world. Throughout its storied history, the club has recruited and developed dozens of star players. In his eleven years at Boca Juniors, president Mauricio Macri has significantly increased the club's net worth and annual revenues. However, he faces a constant challenge to remain competitive on and off the field. In November 2006, Macri is approached by Spanish and Italian soccer powerhouses, seeking to purchase the players Fernando Gago and Rodrigo Palacio. Should Macri enter negotiations with the clubs interested in buying the star players? If so, how should they approach the talks? Allows for an in-depth examination of Boca Junior's business model and how it differs from that of the richer soccer clubs in Western Europe. Also enables an assessment of successful talent and brand management strategies in the context of a sports franchise with a worldwide reach.

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Harvard Business School Case 308-009

In the spring of 2008, INSEAD offered a one-year MBA, PhD, executive MBA, and non-degree management education programs to nearly 900 MBA students, 64 PhD candidates, and over 8,500 executive education students. With two campuses, one in Europe and one in Asia, INSEAD had been a pioneer in setting up a secondary campus as a way to push the internationalization of its faculty and curriculum. The case explores INSEAD's approach to business education in a global context and how it functions with a dual-campus setting.

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Kinyuseisaku: Monetary Policy in Japan

Harvard Business School Case 708-017

Toshihiko Fukui, Government of the Bank of Japan, faced a complex situation in the fall of 2007. An economic recovery had allowed the central bank to abandon its zero interest rate policy, which had been in place for years, and raise rates to 0.5%. The Bank of Japan was eager to increase them to more "normal" levels to exert effective monetary policy. Yet the appropriate timing and approach was a controversial issue, especially as the government did not want a rate hike that could potentially hinder economic growth and increase its already large fiscal debt burden.

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Restructuring at Delphi Corporation

Harvard Business School Case 208-069

Delphi Corporation, operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, has filed a plan of reorganization with the court, under which a consortium of hedge funds led by Appaloosa Management will invest up to $2.6 billion in new equity. Also participating in the plan is General Motors which, as the former parent of Delphi, has agreed to fund a portion of the massive pension and retiree health care liabilities that Delphi incurred when it separated from GM in a prior spin-off. The company has also had to seek significant financial concessions from the United Auto Workers, without which it may not survive as a going concern. Greatly complicating the negotiations is the significant uncertainty surrounding the value of Delphi's business and the complexity of its capital structure.

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Stanford Graduate School of Business

Harvard Business School Case 308-010

In fall 2007, Stanford Graduate School of Business adopted a new curriculum that it heralded as a "revolutionary change in management education." The new approach aimed at increasing the level and quality of student academic engagement. This case describes the concept and described its implementation and early challenges.

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Studio Moderna—A Venture in Eastern Europe

Harvard Business School Case 808-110

Sandi Cesko, CEO, has built Studio Moderna to be the leading electronic retailer in 20 countries in and around Central and Eastern Europe, evolving an unusual multi-channel strategy, organizational structure, and IT systems. Serious conflicts cause Cesko to question his in-sourcing strategy.

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Subprime Meltdown: American Housing and Global Financial Turmoil

Harvard Business School Case 708-042

This case focuses on the financial difficulties faced in the U.S. from August to December 2006 as well as their roots in subprime lending. After briefly discussing how mortgages were structured and traded in the pre-1990 period, it describes subprime mortgage lending, as well as other innovative mortgages issued in the 1990s. It also discusses how these mortgages were packaged into securities, and who ultimately came to own these claims and their attendant risk. The case then describes the pain inflicted by raising foreclosures, as well as the financial market ramifications of the rise in mortgage delinquencies. It also chronicles the response of the U.S. and European central banks to the unfolding financial difficulties. Lastly, the case lays policies that have been proposed to deal with either the consequences or the causes of the crisis. These include policies for reforming the supervision of the financial system, changing bankruptcy rules and regulating mortgage finance. Some attention is paid to the role of credit rating agencies in the crisis, and in the financial system as a whole.

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University of Chicago Graduate School of Business

Harvard Business School Case 308-014

The University of Chicago Graduate School of Business offered a discipline-based, flexible MBA program to full-time, evening, weekend, and executive MBA students. At a time when other MBA programs were introducing significant changes to their curricula, Chicago felt its traditional approach worked well, and it was not contemplating significant change. This case describes Chicago's approach to MBA education and the challenges it faced.

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Weber Shandwick: The Client Relationship Leader Program

Harvard Business School Case 408-077

In 2002 Weber Shandwick, a leading global public relations agency, instituted a Client Relationship Leader (CRL) Program for its top 32 global accounts. The purpose of the program is to ensure that all of the firm's resources across geographies, practice areas, and specialty areas are coordinated and effectively delivered to Weber Shandwick's most important clients. Each of these clients is assigned a "Client Relationship Leader" and the case discusses the skills and abilities that are needed to be successful in this role in a very complex multidimensional organizational structure. There are two basic types of CRLs: hunters whose job is growing accounts with a lot of potential and farmers whose job is to maintain strong and broad-based relationships. CRLs must walk a fine line between being close to the client, even considered part of their team, and not being too close by "going native" and ignoring their responsibilities as Weber Shandwick employees. Unlike office managers, who are measured based on the bottom line, CRLs are measured on top-line growth. Another objective of the CRL program is to enable Weber Shandwick to differentiate itself in a highly competitive environment where it is very difficult for PR firms and their holding-company media conglomerate parents to do so. The public relations industry in the broadest sense has undergone a tremendous amount of consolidation through acquisitions over the past 20 years. It is also being challenged to adapt to new technologies like blogging and social networking, which both change and enhance existing service offerings. Another way that Weber Shandwick is adapting to new technologies is through an Internet-based platform called WeberWorks (3.0) that fosters communication and collaboration between the firm and the client and within the client team.

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WellPoint, Inc.

Harvard Business School Case 307-051

Describes the U.S. Health Care industry and WellPoint's background, market growth strategies, and potential as an investment option.

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Yale School of Management

Harvard Business School Case 308-011

In the fall of 2006, the Yale School of Management launched a new core curriculum in its MBA program. The new curriculum eliminated traditional discipline-based courses such as finance and marketing and replaced them with courses that sought to integrate teaching and learning across functions and from the perspective of the constituents with whom leaders typically interacted, such as customers, competitors, and investors. This case examines the implementation of the new curriculum and how it transformed business education at the Yale School of Management.

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How Star Women Build Portable Skills


In May 2004, with the war for talent in high gear, Groysberg and colleagues from Harvard Business School wrote in these pages about the risks of hiring star performers away from competitors. After studying the fortunes of more than 1,000 star stock analysts, they found that when a star switched companies, not only did his performance plunge, so did the effectiveness of the group he joined and the market value of his new company. But further analysis of the data reveals that it's not that simple. In fact, one group of analysts reliably maintained star rankings even after changing employers: women. Unlike their male counterparts, female stars who switched firms performed just as well, in the aggregate, as those who stayed put. The 189 star women in the sample (18% of the star analysts studied) achieved a higher rank after switching firms than the men did. Why the discrepancy? First, says the author, the best female analysts appear to have built their franchises on portable, external relationships with clients and the companies they covered, rather than on relationships rooted within their firms. By contrast, male analysts built up greater firm- and team-specific human capital by investing more in the internal networks and unique capabilities and resources of their own companies. Second, women took greater care when assessing a prospective new employer. In this article, Groysberg explores the reasons behind the star women's portable performance.

Learning to Live with Governments: Unilever in India and Turkey, 1950-1980


A noteworthy characteristic of the contemporary global economy is the uneven distribution of world foreign direct investment (FDI). In 2007 three-quarters of world FDI was located in developed countries. The residual was concentrated in a small number of emerging countries. Large countries with little inward FDI included India and Turkey. This is puzzling, given that both countries have greatly liberalized their regulations on inward FDI. After 1945 many developing governments pursued policies which restricted foreign-owned firms. India and Turkey were among the countries with particularly difficult policy environments. This paper explores why Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer products company, was able to sustain large businesses in developing countries such as India and Turkey. The paper argues that the explanation is multi-causal. Unilever held first-mover advantages, but was also prepared to accept low dividend remittances for years. It pursued flexible business strategies beyond its "core" business, even distributing condoms. It maintained a high standard of corporate ethics. It was effective at building contacts with local business and government elites, primarily through localization of management.

Fundamentally Flawed Indexing


Fundamental indexers argue that capitalization weighting is an inferior investment strategy because it necessarily invests more in overvalued stocks and less in undervalued stocks. This article shows that this claim is false. Capitalization weighting does not, by itself, create a performance drag.

Radically Simple IT


Many managers think that developing and rolling out a major IT system is like putting up a warehouse: You build it and you're done. But that does not work for IT anymore. Taking that approach results in rigid, costly systems that are outdated from the day they are turned on. What's needed for today's businesses is IT that serves not only as a platform for existing operations but also as a launchpad for new functions and businesses. In this article, the authors present a path-based approach that addresses the primary challenges of IT: the difficulty and expense of mapping out all requirements before a project starts because people often cannot specify everything that they need beforehand; the other unanticipated needs that almost always arise once a system is in operation; and the tricky task of persuading people to use and "own" it. Japan's Shinsei Bank emerged during the authors' research as a standout among the companies applying the path-based method. The firm designed, built, and rolled out its system by forging together, not just aligning, business and IT strategies; employing the simplest possible technology; making the system truly modular; letting it sell itself to users; and ensuring that users influence future improvements. Some of the principles are variations on old themes, while others turn the conventional wisdom on its head.

The Networked Nonprofit


Management wisdom says that nonprofits must be large and in charge to do the most good. But some of the world's most successful organizations instead stay small, sharing their load with like-minded, long-term partners. The success of these networked nonprofits suggests that organizations should focus less on growing themselves and more on cultivating their networks.