Robert S. Huckman

Albert J. Weatherhead III Professor of Business Administration

Robert Huckman is the Albert J. Weatherhead III Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the faculty co-chair of the HBS Healthcare Initiative. He teaches the first-year MBA course in Technology and Operations Management and has taught the second-year MBA course in Operations Strategy. Professor Huckman is on the faculty of Executive Education's Managing Health Care Delivery  and Leadership and Strategy in Pharmaceuticals and Biotech.  He is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and the co-chair of the management track of Harvard's doctoral program in health policy.

Professor Huckman's research focuses on the linkages between organizational characteristics and operating performance, with an emphasis on the health care industry. His articles have appeared in publications including the American Economic Journal, the American Economic Review, Harvard Business Review, Health Affairs, the Journal of Health Economics, Management Science, the New England Journal of Medicine, Organization Science, and the Strategic Management Journal. His worked has been cited in numerous media outlets, including a 2007 profile in The Financial Times. He is an associate editor of Management Science, a senior editor of Production and Operations Management, and a member of the editorial review board of Organization Science.

Professor Huckman received a Ph.D. in Business Economics from Harvard University and an A.B. in Public Policy, summa cum laude, from Princeton University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Prior to his graduate studies, Professor Huckman was a Principal and Founding Equity Member of Stamos Associates, Inc., a strategy and operations consulting firm serving clients in the health care industry. In 1997, Stamos Associates was acquired by Perot Systems, Inc. Professor Huckman has also worked at Booz Allen & Hamilton, Inc.

  1. Public Reporting, Consumerism, and Patient Empowerment

    Several forces in the United States — including the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 — have promoted greater public reporting of health care outcomes. By many accounts, this reporting is largely ignored by consumers,perhaps because the information is hard to find or difficult to understand. We propose another potential explanation — namely, that the public spotlight is not aimed at information that most patients value.
  2. Broadening Focus: Spillovers, Complementarities and Specialization in the Hospital Industry

    The long-standing argument that focused operations outperform others stands in contrast to claims about the benefits of broader operational scope. Within the literature on corporate strategy, this tension between focus and breadth is reconciled by the concept of related diversification (i.e., a firm with multiple operating units, each specializing in distinct but related activities). We consider whether there are similar benefits to related diversification within an operating unit and examine the mechanism that generates these benefits. Using the empirical context of cardiovascular care within hospitals, we first examine the relationship between a hospital's level of specialization in cardiovascular care and the quality of its clinical performance on cardiovascular patients, finding that, on average, focus has a positive effect on quality performance.

  3. HBS/HMS Forum on Healthcare Innovation

    In healthcare the term “innovation” traditionally refers to the development of new therapies, drugs, or devices. As efforts to reform the American healthcare system gain momentum, it is clear that innovation must be explored in a broader context. To help promote this conversation, Harvard Business School (HBS) and Harvard Medical School (HMS) have formed the Forum on Healthcare Innovation. The Forum’s initial events were a conference and survey in November 2012. In this video from the conference, Rob Huckman presents survey results.

  4. Are You Having Trouble Keeping Your Operations Focused?

    As a business broadens over time, it can lose the operational edge that led to its original success. Core strengths atrophy, efficiency or quality suffers, and sharper rivals close in to take advantage of the loss of focus. In his classic article "The Focused Factory" (HBR May-June 1974), Wickham Skinner proposed that manufacturers whose product lines had proliferated create specialized units, each dedicated to a distinct task. Many organizations have since adopted the model, in the form of focused units that share people, equipment, and other assets to some extent. But they've found it difficult to implement. That's because, the author writes, they don't give every unit narrowly defined objectives; they underestimate the challenges related to sharing resources; they don't fully consider to what degree best practices, knowledge, and talent should be shared; and they don't anticipate the political tensions that can arise. Huckman provides guidelines for setting clear objectives, getting the boundaries between units right, establishing rules for sharing, and customizing performance criteria.

  5. Learning from Customers: Individual and Organizational Effects in Outsourced Radiological Services

    The ongoing fragmentation of work has resulted in a narrowing of tasks into smaller pieces that can be sent outside the organization and, in many instances, around the world. This trend is shifting the boundaries of organizations and leading to increased outsourcing. Though the consolidation of volume may lead to productivity improvement, little is known about how this shift toward outsourcing influences learning by providers of outsourced services. We examine more than 2.7 million cases read by 97 radiologists for 1,431 customers and find evidence supporting the benefits of customer-specific experience accumulated by individual radiologists.