Julie M. Wulf

Associate Professor of Business Administration (Leave of Absence)

Julie Wulf is an Associate Professor at Harvard Business School and is a Visiting Associate Professor at MIT Sloan this academic year. She is a Co-Editor of The Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization and a Faculty Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. Wulf’s research examines internal governance, leadership, and the strategy and performance of organizations. She has published papers on the evolution of corporate structure, financial and non-financial incentives, the allocation of decision rights, innovation and incentives, internal capital and labor markets, mergers and acquisitions, and behavioral aspects of organizations. Wulf’s research has been published in academic journals in the fields of economics, finance and strategy/management such as the Journal of Labor Economics; American Economic Journal; Review of Economics and Statistics; Journal of Financial Economics; Review of Financial Studies; Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization; and Management Science.  She has also published in practitioner publications such as Harvard Business Review and California Management Review. Select articles have been highlighted in the media including The Economist, Business Week, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, CNN International, Bloomberg TV, and the NBER Digest.

Wulf currently teaches the MBA elective course Corporate Strategy and Organization and 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 for which she won a student teaching award in 2004. While at Wharton, she also taught a number of courses to both full-time and executive MBAs. 

Before receiving her Ph.D. in Economics from Columbia University, Wulf held several positions in the private sector including Vice President of Corporate Planning and Development at American Express and Senior Associate at Booz & Co. She also co-founded a private-equity real estate investment firm, served as a director and member of the compensation committee, and remains a principal shareholder. 

Wulf lives in Brookline, MA with her husband, son, and daughter.

  1. Pay Harmony: Peer Comparison and Executive Compensation

    This study suggests that peer comparison affects both wage setting and productivity within firms. We report three changes in division manager compensation following a 1991-1992 controversy over executive pay. We argue that this controversy increased wage comparisons within firms, particularly those with geographically-dispersed managers – managers with the greatest information frictions. Following the controversy, pay in dispersed firms co-moves more and is less sensitive to individual performance. Relatedly, pay disparity between managers located in different states decreases relative to that of co-located managers. Finally, division productivity falls in dispersed firms, particularly among managers at the low end of the wage distribution.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    Click to see Video from CMR 

  4. 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.