Research Summary

Managing Processes



David A. Garvin is examining the nature and use of managerial and organizational processes—the means by which work is accomplished—including strategic processes that chart corporate direction, resource allocation processes that distribute funds, decision-making processes that resolve conflicts and select among alternatives, managerial processes that negotiate roles and responsibilities and oversee and orchestrate work, and change processes that fundamentally revamp and improve organizational performance. The general manager's role is to set these processes in motion, monitor them continuously, and shape and direct them as they unfold over time. Over a dozen new cases have been derived from this research and serve as the basis for the second-year MBA elective General Management: Processes and Action, an Advanced Management Program course by the same name, and a casebook of the same title published by Irwin/McGraw-Hill in 2002. Included in these materials is a multimedia case, 'Paul Levy: Taking Charge of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center,' that examines the taking charge process of a new chief executive by drawing on real-time video interviews, emails, and internal memoranda and reports.

To learn more about the leadership of process-oriented organizations, Garvin led a roundtable discussion with CEOs who have pioneered these approaches that has been published in Harvard Business Review as 'Leveraging Processes for Strategic Advantage.' He has also written a conceptual paper, 'The Processes of Organization and Management,' published in Sloan Management Review, that summarized the literature in the field, provided an organizing framework, and developed implications for managers, as well as co-authoring an article on decision-making processes, published in Harvard Business Review as 'What You Don't Know About Decision Making.'

Currently, he is studying innovation and decision making processes in large, complex, multibillion dollar corporations. He is particularly interested in the challenges that these organizations face in creating and growing new businesses, which led to the articles 'What Every CEO Should Know About Creating New Businesses' and 'Meeting the Challenge of Corporate Entrepreneurship," and in the role that executive committees and senior management teams play in coordinating, integrating, and overseeing diverse activities. He is also studying the multiple types and levels of general managers (e.g. store managers, district managers, regional managers, and division presidents at large retailers) to understand how their responsibilities and day-to-day tasks differ. That research, conducted with Lynne Levesque, has resulted in a series of cases on the multiple levels of management at Staples as well as an article, "The Multiunit Enterprise," that appeared in the June 2008 issue of Harvard Business Review.