First Look

September 9, 2009

As an expert on the challenges and importance of negotiation, HBS professor Deepak Malhotra describes in the September/October issue of Foreign Affairs how diplomacy plays a difficult but increasingly necessary role on the international stage. As he writes in "Without Conditions: The Case for Negotiating with the Enemy," "The ability of extremists to derail negotiations through violence and belligerence presents policymakers with a high-stakes dilemma: Should the muzzling of extremism be set as a precondition to negotiations, or should negotiations be initiated in order to reduce support for extremism?" The choice is not easy, as different outcomes from Northern Ireland, Colombia, North Korea, and the Middle East attest. For negotiation to fulfill its potential in international diplomacy, Malhotra advises governments to ensure two criteria: "that the opponent is capable of meeting the demands and that its doing so will not weaken its future leverage." Also this week, professor Michael W. Toffel and coauthors discuss which kinds of operational failures in a hospital setting are most likely to encourage frontline workers to take initiative in solving problems. "By explaining some of the variation in responsiveness, this study empowers managers to adjust their approach to problem-solving," they write in "Operational Failures and Problem Solving: An Empirical Study of Incident Reporting" [PDF].
— Martha Lagace

Working Papers

Operational Failures and Problem Solving: An Empirical Study of Incident Reporting


Operational failures occur in all industries with consequences that range from minor inconveniences to major catastrophes. Many organizations have implemented incident reporting systems to highlight actual and potential operational failures in order to encourage problem solving and prevent subsequent failures. Our study is among the first to develop and empirically test theory regarding which reported operational failures are likely to spur problem solving. We hypothesize that problem solving activities are especially likely to follow reported operational failures that provoke financial and legal liability risks. We also hypothesize that management commitment to problem solving, enacted through managers' communication and engagement practices, can encourage frontline workers to conduct problem solving. We test our hypotheses in the health care context, in which the use of incident reporting systems to highlight operational failures is widespread. Using data on nearly 7,500 reported incidents from a single hospital, we find support for our hypotheses. Our findings suggest that frontline workers' participation in problem solving is motivated by some inherent characteristics of the problems as well as by particular management practices.

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New Perspectives on Regulation

No abstract is available at this time.

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The Principles of Embedded Liberalism: Social Legitimacy and Global Capitalism


In this essay we revisit the principles of "embedded liberalism" and argue for their relevance to the contemporary global economy. The most essential principle is the need for markets to enjoy social legitimacy, because their political sustainability ultimately depends on it. From this principle we analyze three current sets of practices and institutions in which ongoing crises of legitimacy demonstrate the need for a renewal of embedded liberalism and a revitalization of global governance. They are as follows: the activities of transnational corporations, particularly with regard to core standards in labor and human rights; the organization of the international financial architecture; and the formal rules and informal norms of international organizations.

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Government as Risk Manager


We explain the four basic ways to manage risk: prevention, risk shifting, risk spreading, and loss control. We set out five principles of effective government risk management gleaned from extensive historical study: (1) link responsibility and control, (2) manage moral hazard, (3) pool risk in sound institutions, (4) adopt market conforming approaches to the extent possible, and (5) structure markets to promote safe products. Finally, we describe some promising new government risk management ideas that incorporate these principles.

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Priced and Unpriced Online Markets


With forces both supporting and opposing zero prices, typical Internet-related activities—like surfing the web, web searches, and e-mail, along with behind-the-scenes practices like domain names and the allocation of IP (Internet Protocol) addresses—present a natural context to reevaluate our sense of the tradeoffs that arise between free and a positive price. In this piece, I offer a series of specific examples of resources offered without charge, for a positive price, or for a flat fee ("all-you-can-eat"). I conclude by assessing the characteristics that shape pricing structure for these resources.

Does Public Ownership of Equity Improve Earnings Quality?


We compare the quality of accounting numbers produced by two types of public firms—those with publicly traded equity and those with privately held equity that are nonetheless considered public by virtue of having publicly traded debt. We develop and test two hypotheses. The "demand" hypothesis holds that earnings of public equity firms are of higher quality than earnings of private equity firms due to stronger demand by shareholders and creditors for quality reporting. In contrast, the "opportunistic behavior" hypothesis posits that public equity firms, because their managers have a greater incentive to manage earnings, have lower earnings quality than their private equity peers. The results indicate that, consistent with the "opportunistic behavior" hypothesis, private equity firms have higher quality accruals and a lower propensity to manage income than public equity firms. We further find that public equity firms report more conservatively, in line with their greater litigation risk and agency costs.

Without Conditions: The Case for Negotiating with the Enemy

No abstract is available at this time.


Jones Lang LaSalle: Reorganizing around the Customer

Harvard Business School Case 410-007

Peter Roberts, CEO of Jones, Lang, LaSalle (JLL) Americas division, has been charged with expanding the company's presence in its core geographic markets while simultaneously growing its corporate account business. Roberts and his task force have narrowed their options to two proposals. The first is an enhancement of the account management model put in place in 2001 where independent service units co-existed with an account management group. The second is a realignment of the firm's operations around geography and key accounts. By examining the tradeoffs required by each option, the case illustrates the tensions involved in structuring an organization around product, geography, and key customers. It also explores the importance of aligning strategic choices with organizational architecture.

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Meeting the Diversity Challenge at PepsiCo: The Steve Reinemund Era

Harvard Business School Case 410-024

This case profiles PepsiCo's diversity journey under the leadership of former chairman and CEO Steve Reinemund who instituted diversity as one of the company's strategic imperatives. It demonstrates the ways in which Reinemund partnered with his leadership team and employees throughout the organization to make diversity a key factor in PepsiCo's culture and performance. It also reveals how, regardless of the success, PepsiCo employees were openly speculating what it would mean for the diversity strategy that Reinemund would be turning the helm of PepsiCo over to Indra Nooyi, a 50-year old Indian-born woman, who would need to find her own voice and approach to leading the company and its diversity efforts.

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Researching a Company

Harvard Business School Note 610-024

This note was written to help students at the Harvard Business School do a more thorough job of researching a company, utilizing the extensive resources of the Baker Library, as well as other widely available databases. Exhibits provide detailed information on key resources and instructions for accessing prominent databases.

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Harvard Business School Case 709-495

Twitter is a micro-blogging company which allows users to send short text updates to others. The site is used by people, including celebrities, government officials, and businesses. It helps to raise money for non-profit organizations and provides first-responders with information during a natural disaster. Even though almost 10 million people visited the site in early 2009, the site had no strategy for monetizing the traffic. The case allows students to examine potential monetization strategies for Twitter

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Wal-Mart's Use of Interest Rate Swaps

Harvard Business School Case 108-038

"Wal-Mart's Use of Interest Rate Swaps" recounts Wal-Mart's use of interest rate swaps to hedge the fair value of its fixed-rate debt against changing interest rates. This case provides students with a foundation for understanding the use of and accounting for more complex derivatives. Specific issues raised include (1) the financial statement impact of hedge accounting; (2) motivations for using derivatives, including the potential role of accounting standards; and (3) the degree to which financial statement and MD&A disclosures are sufficiently informative about the risks associated with financial instruments.

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