Dennis Campbell

Professor of Business Administration

Dennis W. Campbell is a Professor in the Accounting & Management Unit at Harvard Business School. He is currently the course head for the HBS required MBA course Financial Reporting and Control. He also teaches the elective MBA course Managing Service Operations as well as in the HBS doctoral program and several executive education programs including Driving Corporate Performance (U.S. and China), Achieving Breakthrough Service, and Consumer Financial Services.

Professor Campbell's research, teaching, and case writing focus on the design of performance measurement and management control systems, with a particular focus on identifying design choices that enable more effective interactions between organizations and their customers. He has studied these issues extensively in both the U.S. and international services sectors and has published numerous case studies across a variety of related industries including retail, hospitality, and financial services. His research has been published in leading academic journals including Journal of Accounting Research, The Accounting ReviewManufacturing & Service Operations Management, and Management Science.   

Professor Campbell received his doctorate from Harvard Business School and his bachelors degrees in mathematics and economics from the University of Redlands (Redlands, CA). Prior to beginning his doctoral studies, he worked at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C. on research and policy related to the structure, conduct, and performance of U.S. banking institutions and markets. He is currently serving on the board of the Harvard University Employees Credit Union and is a research fellow at the Filene Research Institute. He enjoys living in Sudbury, MA with his wife, son, daughter, and two dogs.  

  1. Employee Selection as a Control System

    Theories from the economics, management control, and organizational behavior literatures predict that when it is difficult to align incentives by contracting on output, aligning preferences via employee selection may provide a useful alternative. This study investigates this idea empirically using personnel and lending data from a financial services organization that implemented a highly decentralized business model. I exploit variation in this organization in whether or not employees are selected via channels that are likely to sort on the alignment of their preferences with organizational objectives. I find that employees selected through such channels are more likely to use decision-making authority in the granting and structuring of consumer loans than those who are not. Conditional on using decision-making authority, their decisions are also less risky ex post. These findings demonstrate employee selection as an important, but understudied, element of organizational control systems.

  2. The Learning Effects of Monitoring

    This study investigates the relationship between monitoring, decision making, and learning among lower-level employees. We exploit a field-research setting in which business units vary in the “tightness” with which they monitor employee decisions. We find that tighter monitoring gives rise to implicit incentives in the form of sharp increases in employee termination linked to “excessive” use of decision-rights. Consistent with these implicit incentives, we find that employees in tightly monitored business units are less likely than their loosely monitored counterparts to: (1) use decision-rights; and (2) adjust for hard information, in the form of historical performance data, in their decisions. These decision-making patterns are associated with large and systematic differences in learning rates across business units. Learning is concentrated in business units with “loose monitoring” and entirely absent in those with “tight monitoring.” The results are consistent with an experimentation hypothesis in which tight monitoring of decisions leads to more control but less learning.

  3. Analytic Performance Management at TD-Canada Trust

    This field case explores the role of analytics in translating TD-Canada Trust's strategy of "comfortable banking" into operational terms. It demonstrates how an organization facing significant regulatory, competitive, and labor market constraints can leverage systematic analysis of the drivers of customer satisfaction and profitability to successfully differentiate and compete on service.   

  4. Designing Controls for Empowerment at Affinity Plus

    This field-case explores how management control systems can be designed to enable empowered decision-making, even at the lowest levels of the organizational hierarchy, while mitigating risk. The business model of the financial services organization featured in this case empowers virtually all employees from the CEO to front-line staff to make significant decisions on the behalf of customers – with the equivalent of tellers having the right to make lending, pricing, and general decisions about service provision for customers. Despite this high degree of empowerment, and the absence of traditional management controls, the organization operates with a strong risk profile – having very low default rates relative to peers for instance – which remains true even through the economic crisis of 2008. The case uncovers general design features of the organization's non-traditional control systems that mitigate risk without limiting empowered decision-making. 
  5. Control and the Customer Experience

    Professor Dennis Campbell delivered a keynote speech at the annual meeting of the Dutch Controllers Institute.  He presented findings from his research and case studies to articulate how companies can successfully compete on service, how financial professionals can help ensure that investments in customers and better service are ultimately profitable, and how organizations can be designed to consistently deliver value to both customers and shareholders.