Managing Change and Transformation - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Managing Change and Transformation

Course Number 2040

Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Spring; Q3Q4; 3 credits
12 two-hour sessions
Limited to 75 students

Career Focus

Managing Change and Transformation prepares entrepreneurs, innovators, top leaders, and investors seeking to have significant impact on major social and environmental issues by creating new organizations or transforming existing ones. It will be immediately useful for entrepreneurial ventures that are scaling; new business development and venture oversight; consulting and private equity; and project management for innovations.

Educational Objectives

The core of leadership increasingly involves the ecosystem and not just the enterprise, as innovative leaders tackle problems of climate change, health, education, race/gender disparities, and the future of cities. While aiming to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, successful leaders must also deal with continuing human challenges of innovation in the face of uncertainty. They must know how to overcome resistance to change, and forge coalitions of diverse people and groups whose interests vary and who are not fully under the leader’s control.

This course will arm students with practical skills and hands-on tools for

  • developing new ideas and crafting a compelling, persuasive narrative;
  • identifying and building coalitions to attract allies and resources, while minimizing or neutralizing opposition;
  • planning and guiding systemic change (major strategic shifts, business turnarounds, cultural transformations);
  • leading social movements and managing specific change projects;
  • diagnosing sources of resistance and overcoming obstacles in the middle of venture creation;
  • diffusing innovations and scaling ventures that can grow in impact and "change the world."

Course Methods and Content

HBS cases will be augmented by exercises, workshops, live cases, tool application sessions, and class visitors.
There will be opportunities for students to discuss and develop their own venture interests.

The course will emphasize “thinking outside the building” to challenge conventional wisdom and find novel solutions, sometimes incorporating new technology. This will increase understanding of action across organizational and institutional boundaries, such as mergers and acquisitions, strategic alliances, cross-sector partnerships, and 'extended enterprise' networks. The course will also focus on creating and incubating new ventures and managing the tensions between mainstream, well-established activities - heritage and legacy systems - and innovations that challenge the status quo.

Course frameworks and tools will be applicable to a wide range of ventures and leadership situations in many sectors throughout the world, from big and established to small and new. Case situations will include classic business transformation using innovative business models in an Asian bank, a Canadian cooperative, a Chinese manufacturer, and a European marking giant; institutional reinvention, such as reinventing U.S. (and international) high schools; identifying alternative approaches to controversial issues such as gun safety, from mobilizing investors to a technology startup; opening new possibilities for change, such as adding financing tools to save the health of the oceans, or dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis by creating an Uber-like platform to match skilled refugees with talent-hungry companies; and applying technology to big social issues, such as building a rapidly growing social media company to level social divides in Latin America; among others.

This wide range of problems and potential solutions will be analyzed using a set of common frameworks and tools, which will then also be applied to students’ own interests and aspirational projects. The result will be enhanced leadership skills for envisioning and executing significant social change through innovative projects and ventures.