First Look

March 13, 2007

Do in-store medical clinics pose a threat or an opportunity to the status quo of healthcare? That's the question Richard Bohmer, M.D., a senior lecturer at HBS, examines in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. These kiosk-sized clinics, staffed by nurse practitioners who diagnose and treat a relatively short "menu" of conditions, can help or hurt the traditional patient-physician mode of interaction, depending upon your perspective. But we should be open-minded about the trend, says Bohmer. "Given the stresses expected to bear upon delivery of services in the future, such models deserve consideration as one potential mechanism for managing a particular class of medical problems, serving a particular patient need, and maximizing patient benefit with limited resources," he writes in the Journal. Also new this week: a working paper for download in PDF format about how an employee's social position affects his or her ability to launch innovative projects; articles on, among other pressing issues, improving education in urban India and implementing new practices in hospital intensive care units; and as always a comprehensive variety of new business cases.
— Martha Lagace

Working Papers

Initiating Divergent Organizational Change: The Enabling Role of Actors' Social Position


This study addresses the paradox of embedded human agency, or the contradiction between actors' agency and institutional determinism. It helps to resolve this paradox by considering the enabling role of actors' social position. Adopting a relational view of human agency, I model the impact of their social position on the likelihood that actors will initiate changes that diverge from the existing institutions. I test this model using data from 93 change projects conducted by clinical managers at the National Health Service in the United Kingdom. My findings suggest that social position is an important enabling condition for divergent organizational change, and is a determinant as well of the type of divergent organizational change an actor may undertake.

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Is Yours a Learning Organization?

No abstract available.


Cases & Course Materials

Amanco: Developing the Sustainability Scorecard

Harvard Business School Case 107-038

Describes the challenges of using the Balanced Scorecard to implement a triple-bottom-line strategy for delivering excellent economic, environmental, and social performance. The owners and senior executive team of Amanco, a producer of plastic pipe and complete water treatment systems, want strong financial returns but are also deeply committed to improving the environment and making a difference in people's lives. Robert Salas, CEO, wants a management system that communicates and motivates Amanco's three high-level goals. Initially, he creates a simple scorecard of measures, but he soon migrates to developing a strategy map and Balanced Scorecard that places economic, environmental, and social objectives as the highest-level objectives. He faces the challenges of cascading the corporate Balanced Scorecard to operating units throughout Latin America and how to develop better measures of social and environmental impact. Salas must also address whether he can sustain Amanco's balanced strategy while entering the Brazilian market, where he faces an entrenched and much larger competitor.

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Ice-Fili (Abridged)

Harvard Business School Case 705-441

Designed as an overview of all aspects of the strategy process: industry analysis, positioning, dynamics and sustainability, and scope issues of corporate strategy, including vertical integration, horizontal diversification, and location issues. Ice-Fili is the largest ice cream producer in Russia in 2002, but is facing strong competition from Nestle despite its success over other multinational competitors. Contains detailed exhibits, allowing deeper analyses. A rewritten version of an earlier case.

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Linux, Supplement to Epodia

Harvard Business School Supplement 606-067

Supplements the case Epodia: Demise of the HBS Case-Writing Monopoly?

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National Logistics Management: Founder Decisions

Harvard Business School Case 807-125

Scott Taylor, CEO & founder of NLM, is a serial entrepreneur faced with an important decision. As his industry consolidates, he knows that his company must grow quickly, yet he believes he has reached the limit of what organic growth can achieve. Should he accept the offer provided by a private equity firm that is buying up other small competitors in his industry?

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The Omidyar-Tufts Microfinance Fund: Striving to Reshape the Social Enterprise Capital Markets

Harvard Business School Case 307-078

Seeking to impact global poverty and philanthropy, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar donates $100 million to Tufts University for a trust restricted to investment in microfinance. Explores the origins of the initiative, the perspectives and objectives of the various parties involved, and the manner in which the key issues of structure, management, implementation, and accountability have been addressed. The Omidyar-Tufts Microfinance Fund seeks to have a catalytic effect on the expansion of an activity deemed to have high social value while applying a rigorous professional criteria to the deployment of the monies so as to yield an economic return equal to or higher than those of comparable assets in the Tufts endowment. In the process, the Omidyar approach is contrasted to more traditional ways of giving. Additionally, provides an overview of the microfinance industry and the challenges of investing in this new field of the emerging markets.

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Organic Growth at Wal-Mart

Harvard Business School Case 707-498

In 2005, an executive vice president at Wal-Mart must decide whether to expand the retailer's selection of organic food. The decision is made in the context of wider attempts to move the giant retailer slightly upscale and to focus on environmental sustainability.

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Robert E. Rubin (A)

Harvard Business School Case 407-064

No abstract available.

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To JV or Not To JV? That Is the Question (for XTech in China)

Harvard Business School Case 807-118

XTech, a leading manufacturer of metal parts for the telecommunications industry, is being pushed by its large equipment vendor customers to establish a manufacturing operation in China. CEO Reinhold Hesse is debating several options: establishing a joint venture, contracting with a local partner, or setting up a wholly owned enterprise. Hesse must prepare his recommendation to the management team, which includes owners Jim and Debby Sharpe.

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Remedying Education: Evidence from Two Randomized Experiments in India


This paper presents the results of two randomized experiments conducted in schools in urban India. A remedial education program hired young women to teach students lagging behind in basic literacy and numeracy skills. It increased average test scores of all children in treatment schools by 0.28 standard deviation, mostly due to large gains experienced by children at the bottom of the test-score distribution. A computer-assisted learning program focusing on math increased math scores by 0.47 standard deviation. One year after the programs were over initial gains remained significant for targeted children, but they faded to about 0.10 standard deviation.

The Rise of In-Store Clinics—Threat or Opportunity?

No abstract available.

Product Development and Learning in Project Teams: The Challenges Are the Benefits


The value of teams in new product development (NPD) is undeniable. Both the interdisciplinary nature of the work and industry trends necessitate that professionals from different functions work together on development projects to create the highest quality product in the shortest time. Understanding the conditions that facilitate teamwork has been a pursuit of researchers for nearly a half-century. We review existing literature on teams and team learning in organizational behavior and technology and innovation to offer insights for research on new product development teams. Building on prior work, we summarize the organizational benefits of NPD teams, and identify five attributes of these teams that hinder attainment of their potential: (1) project complexity, (2) cross-functionality, (3) temporary membership, (4) fluid team boundaries and (5) embeddedness in organizational structures. We argue that effective management of these five attributes allows not only organization-level benefits, but also team-level benefits in the form of new capabilities and team member resilience. We then highlight the critical roles of leadership and of communication and conflict management training as strategies for overcoming the challenges to team effectiveness in NPD, as well as for realizing five team benefits: (1) project management skills, (2) broad perspective, (3) teaming skills, (4) expanded social network, and (5) boundary spanning skills. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our ideas for conducting future team research.

Three Perspectives on Team Learning: Outcome Improvement, Task Mastery, and Group Process


The emergence of a research literature on team learning has been driven by at least two factors. First, longstanding interest in what makes organizational work teams effective leads naturally to questions of how members of newly formed teams learn to work together and how existing teams improve or adapt. Second, some have argued that teams play a crucial role in organizational learning. These interests have produced a growing and heterogeneous literature. Empirical studies of learning by small groups or teams present a variety of terms, concepts, and methods. This heterogeneity is both generative and occasionally confusing. We identify three distinct areas of research that provide insight into how teams learn to stimulate cross-area discussion and future research. We find that scholars have made progress in understanding how teams in general learn, and propose that future work should develop more precise and context-specific theories to help guide research and practice in disparate task and industry domains.

On the Robustness of the Winner's Curse Phenomenon


We set out to find ways to help decision makers overcome the "winner's curse," a phenomenon commonly observed in asymmetric information bargaining situations, and instead found strong support for its robustness. In a series of manipulations of the "Acquiring a Company Task," we tried to enhance decision makers' cognitive understanding of the task. We did so by presenting them with different parameters of the task, having them compare and contrast these different parameters, giving them full feedback on their history of choices and resulting outcomes, and allowing them to interact with a human opponent instead of a computer program. Much to our surprise, none of these manipulations led to a better understanding of the task. Our results demonstrate and emphasize the robustness of the winner's curse phenomenon.

Innovation and Its Discontents

Web site for paper:

Identity Negotiation Processes Amidst Diversity: Understanding the Influence of Social Identity and Status Differences


We integrate an identity negotiation framework with research on diversity, social identity theory, and status differences. This integration reveals the distinct advantages and challenges that high and low status people face when they engage in identity negotiation processes. In particular, our analysis systematically disentangles the obstacles that members of low status social groups must overcome to elicit verification of their positive self-views. People in this situation are not only working against a stereotype from a position of low influence, but are also threatening the relative standing of those whose appraisals they are attempting to change. By considering status differences, we are able to identify certain conditions under which verification effects should have especially potent effects, and other conditions under which appraisal effects may be of greater benefit than verification effects to the performance of diverse groups.

Implementing New Practices: An Empirical Study of Organizational Learning in Hospital Intensive Care Units


This paper contributes to research on organizational learning by investigating specific learning activities undertaken by improvement project teams in hospital intensive care units and proposing an integrative model to explain implementation success. Organizational learning is important in this context because medical knowledge changes constantly, and hospital care units must learn if they are to provide high quality care. To develop a model of how improvement project teams promote essential organizational learning in health care, we draw from three streams of related research—best practice transfer (BPT), team learning (TL), and process change (PC). To test the model's hypotheses, we collected data from 23 neonatal intensive care units seeking to implement new or improved practices. We first analyzed the frequency of specific learning activities reported by improvement project participants and discovered two distinct factors: learn-what (activities that identify current best practices) and learn-how (activities that operationalize practices in a given setting). We then conducted general linear model analyses and found support for three of our four hypothesis. Specifically, a high level of supporting evidence for a unit's portfolio of improvement projects was associated with implementation success. Learn-how was positively associated with implementation success, but learn-what was not. Psychological safety was associated with learn-how, which was found to mediate between psychological safety and implementation success.