Julie M. Wulf
Associate Professor of Business Administration
Julie Wulf is an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School. She is a Co-Editor of The Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization and a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Wulf”s research examines the internal governance of senior managers - organizational structure, the allocation of decision rights, and incentives - and the interaction with strategy in motivating senior managers to create long-term value for the firm. Her work has been published in academic journals in the fields of economics, finance, and strategy such as Journal of Labor Economics; American Economic Journal: Applied Economics; Review of Economics and Statistics; Journal of Financial Economics; Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization; and Management Science. She also publishes in practitioner publications such as the Harvard Business Review. Select articles have been highlighted in the business press including The Economist; Business Week; The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times and more scholarly publications such as The NBER Digest. She has made recent television appearances to describe her research.
Wulf currently teaches the MBA elective course Corporate Strategy and Organization in which she has developed a new module “Internal Governance and Strategy Execution: Coordination and Incentives.” She also teaches in the school's executive education program Building and Sustaining Competitive Advantage. Prior to coming to HBS, Wulf was on the faculty at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania where she taught the first-year MBA core course in Competitive Strategy to both the full-time and executive MBAs. She won a student teaching award from the full-time MBAs.
Professor Wulf received a Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia University and a M.Sc. from the London School of Economics. Before beginning her doctoral studies, she held several positions in the private sector including Vice President of Corporate Planning and Development at American Express and Senior Associate at Booz-Allen & Hamilton., She was a Principal in a private-equity real estate investment firm in New York where she continues to serve as a director and member of the compensation committee.
Wulf lives in Brookline, MA with her husband, son, and daughter.
Pay Harmony: Peer Comparison and Executive Compensation
Do horizontal wage comparisons affect firm policies on executive pay? This paper explores that question using a 1992 SEC proxy disclosure rule that mandated increased disclosure of executive pay. We argue that this rule differentially increased wage comparisons within firms with geographically-dispersed managers—firms with the greatest information frictions prior to the rule change. We report three changes related to compensation after 1992 for division managers. First, within firms with dispersed managers, division manager pay is less sensitive to individual performance and co-moves more with peer pay. Second, pay disparity between managers located in different states decreases relative to that of co-located managers. Third, division productivity falls in dispersed firms, with the effect driven by managers at the low end of the wage distribution. Taken together, our findings suggest that principals account for horizontal peer comparison when designing executive wage contracts and that they face a tradeoff between the incentive effects of performance-based pay and effects of peer comparison.
The Flattened Firm--Not as Advertised
For decades, management consultants and the popular business press have urged large firms to flatten their hierarchies. Flattening (or delayering, as it is also known) typically refers to the elimination of layers in a firm’s organizational hierarchy, and the broadening of managers’ spans of control. The alleged benefits of flattening flow primarily from pushing decisions downward to enhance customer and market responsiveness and to improve accountability and morale. Has flattening delivered on its promise to push decisions downward? In this article, I present evidence suggesting that while firms have delayered, flattened firms can exhibit more control and decision-making at the top. Managers take note. Flattening can lead to exactly the opposite effects from what it promises to do.
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How Many Direct Reports?
If senior executives are feeling ever-increasing pressure on their time—and few would suggest that’s not the case—why would they add more to their plates? It seems counterintuitive, but according to our research into C-level roles over the past two decades, the CEO’s average span of control, measured by the number of direct reports, has doubled, rising from about five in the mid-1980s to almost 10 in the mid-2000s. The leap in the chief executive’s purview is all the more remarkable when you consider that companies today are vastly more complex, globally dispersed, and strictly scrutinized than those of previous generations.
Who Lives in the C-Suite? Organizational Structure and the Division of Labor in Top Management
Top management structures in large US firms have changed significantly since the mid-1980s. While the size of the executive team – the group of managers reporting directly to the CEO – doubled during this period, this growth was driven primarily by an increase in functional managers rather than general managers, a phenomenon we term “functional centralization.” Using panel data on senior management positions, we show that changes in the structure of the executive team are tightly linked to changes in firm diversification and IT investments. These relationships depend crucially on the function involved: those closer to the product (“product” functions, e.g. marketing / R&D) behave differently from functions further from the product (“administrative” functions, e.g. finance / law / HR). We argue that this distinction is driven by differences in the information-processing activities associated with each function, and apply this insight to refine and extend existing theories of centralization. We also discuss the implications of our results for organizational forms beyond the executive team.