Running a Federal Agency: Lessons from Business, Technology and Game Theory - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Running a Federal Agency: Lessons from Business, Technology and Game Theory

Course Number 1535

HBS Visiting Scholar/HLS Visiting Professor Julius Genachowski
Fall 2013
Meets W 5-8 pm on Sept 11, Oct 9, Nov 13, Dec 4 on Law School Campus
1.5 credits

Course Objectives

This course will offer first-hand insights into the management of a U.S. federal agency and the role of the Federal Communications Commission in unleashing the opportunities of wired and wireless broadband. The class's instructor served as FCC Chairman from 2009-2013, after a decade as an executive and investor in Internet and media.

Informally called Running a Federal Agency: Lessons from Business, Technology and Poker, the class will focus on the development, adoption and implementation of policies in a time of changing technology, a challenging economy, and increasing polarization - in other words, how to get good things done as the head of a federal agency in a sector important to U.S. innovation, economic growth and global competitiveness.

Questions that will be discussed include:

  • What major policies and initiatives should the FCC adopt if its goals are to drive private investment and innovation in wired and wireless broadband networks and applications; foster competitive and healthy markets; and empower consumers and entrepreneurs? Should those be its goals?
  • How can a 75-year-old agency with roughly 2,000 employees and numerous legacy practices and processes best develop those policies and initiatives?
  • Should a federal agency conduct a strategic planning process and, if so, how?
  • What are they key challenges to successful development, adoption and implementation of major policies and initiatives, and how can they be overcome?
  • How should the FCC interact with the President, other federal agencies, and Congress?
  • What role can and should outside stakeholders play? The media?
  • What works, and what doesn't, when it comes to managing a federal agency and engaging with external constituencies? What are the lessons from the private sector, both operations and dealmaking? What are the lessons from game theory and games of skill (like poker)?
  • What's the role of technology in managing a federal agency and achieving its mission?

Course Approach & Content

The class will take an informal case studies approach, looking at how the FCC tackled several major initiatives and proceedings during the last four years, including:

  • Open Internet rules (net neutrality)
  • FCC decisions on the attempted AT&T/T-Mobile merger and completed Comcast/NBC acquisition
  • Developing and implementing Incentive Auctions and other major initiatives to free up spectrum for mobile broadband
  • Modernizing complex regulatory systems from telephone to broadband: Universal Service Fund and Intercarrier Compensation reform.
  • Mesh networking, next-gen 911 and other new ideas to harness technology for public safety communications
  • Education Technology: 21st century connectivity and learning in K-12

Course Requirements

In addition to classroom attendance and participation, a short paper will be required. Total enrollment of up to 20, of which up to 10 will be from HBS, with the balance from HLS (which is also listing this course) and perhaps other Harvard graduate schools.