Designing Competitive - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Designing Competitive Organizations

Course Number 1373

Associate Professor Tatiana Sandino
Professor Robert Simons
Spring; Q3Q4; 3 credits
24 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, this course will teach you how to make the critical choices necessary to win in any market. Using powerful design concepts, you will learn how to create business units capable of beating competitors, assign resources to build effective teams and functions, and design high-performing jobs.

Concepts are widely applicable to any business or industry: case studies include companies in healthcare, software development, financial services, consumer products, retail, publishing, hospitality, education, robotics, and space exploration. You will have ample opportunity to study the choices made by thriving and struggling companies, big and small organizations, and both early-stage and mature firms.

Our analysis in the course will move across different levels of the organization: focusing on individuals, teams, and business units, and will consider and contrast different competitive responses across firms. As we explore diverse situations, you will learn how to (1) allocate resources between market-facing and operating-core units to maximize value to customers, (2) determine the degree of standardization and innovation that each job requires, (3) build accountability systems to promote alignment with strategic goals, foster collaboration, and motivate innovation, (4) create influence networks to spur creativity and share best practices, and (5) enable leaders to create a culture of shared commitment.

In addition, we will also explore best practices in establishing and communicating core values, measuring and monitoring performance using combinations of financial and non-financial measures such as balanced scorecards, identifying and managing risk, and designing systems to anticipate and adapt to change.

The final module integrates course topics and provides you with assessment tools to test whether any organization (including the one you may be considering joining or creating after graduation) has what it takes to go to market and win.

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 short 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 complements, but does not duplicate, topics covered in BSSE, Corporate Strategy, and MOMV.]