Designing Competitive - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Designing Competitive Organizations

Course Number 1373

Professor Robert Simons
Winter; Q3Q4; 3 credits
24 Sessions
Short Paper

Career Focus

This course will be valuable for students who plan to manage (or advise) a business that operates in dynamic markets. Case studies include companies in health care, technology, financial services, consumer products, retail, publishing, education, and space exploration.

Educational Objectives

The course focuses on answering one question: How can I design an organization that will attract customers, grow market share, and beat competitors? This course will not teach you how to formulate strategy. Instead, taking strategy as given, you will learn how to translate theories on organization design and performance management into practical tools and techniques that are essential for executing strategy successfully in any organization.

Course Content and Organization

During the first part of the course, you will learn how to use the levers of organization design to:

(1) Design business units that are responsive to customer demands and preferences

(2) Install measures and incentives to drive entrepreneurial behavior

(3) Create influence networks to share best practices across units and functions

(4) Build shared commitment to help everyone across the business succeed

Once these principles are mastered, you will next learn techniques to execute your business strategy effectively: how to choose the best performance measures and scorecards, manage various types of risk, prioritize core values, and build interactive control systems. Background articles and book chapters will be provided to deepen your understanding and allow you to develop and test action-based principles using a wide variety of case studies in different industries.

Throughout the course, you will have the opportunity to practice what you are learning through exercises such as writing a letter to shareholders and completing performance evaluations. In addition, on three occasions you will be asked to submit "one-pagers" applying course concepts to an organization of your choice (typically an organization you know or one you may want to create in the future). These summaries will form the building blocks for a seven-page final paper.

By the end of the course, you will know how to design and lead an organization capable of bringing out the best in people and winning in any competitive market.

[This course does not overlap with topics covered in BSSE, Corporate Strategy, or MOMV.]