Designing Competitive - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Designing Competitive Organizations

Course Number 1373

Associate Professor Tatiana Sandino
Professor Robert Simons
Fall; Q1Q2; 3 credits
28 Sessions

Educational Objectives

This course has a very specific purpose: to teach students how to design (and manage) a business that can win in highly-competitive global markets.

Course Content and Organization

Taking business strategy as given, the course is organized into seven modules that build one upon the other. Case studies include companies in healthcare, software development, financial services, consumer products, retail, publishing, education, robotics, and space exploration.

  1. Allocating Resources to Customers. You will first learn how to design an organization to execute different business models. For example, you will study how resources are allocated to market-facing units and operating-core units in a Global Standard of Excellence business model and contrast this with how resources are allocated in a Dedicated Service Relationship business model.
  2. Designing High-Performing Jobs. Next, you will learn what resources should be provided to employees in every job and function to allow them to excel and what should be demanded of them. Special attention will be paid to the degree of innovation and standardization that each job requires and the extent to which best practices and customer demands must be coordinated across different units.
  3. Measuring and Monitoring Performance. In this module, you will learn how to build performance management systems using both high-level financial measures such as Economic Value Added (EVA) and detailed combinations of financial and non-financial measures such as Balanced Scorecards.
  4. Managing Risk. As performance pressures increase, there is always the danger that someone who works for you could put your business at risk. You will learn how to identify different types of risk and install internal controls and strategic boundaries to inoculate your business from harm.
  5. Prioritizing and Communicating Core Values. One of the themes of DCO is making tough choices. In this module, you will study how successful firms use core values to signal whose interests to put first when faced with competing demands.
  6. Anticipating and Adapting to Change. This module will show you how to build systems to gather competitive intelligence and adapt your strategy as circumstances change.
  7. Testing an Organization's Ability to Win. The final module integrates course topics and provides you with assessment tools to test whether any organization has what it takes to go to market and beat competitors.

Throughout the course, you will have the opportunity to practice what you are learning in various exercises: completing performance evaluations, designing internal control systems, writing letters to shareholders, and completing a scenario analysis. 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.]