David A. Garvin

C. Roland Christensen Professor of Business Administration

David A. Garvin is the C. Roland Christensen Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. He joined the Business School faculty in 1979 and has since then taught courses in leadership, general management, and operations in the MBA and Advanced Management programs, as well as serving as chair of the Elective Curriculum and faculty chair of the School's Teaching and Learning Center. He has also taught in executive education programs and consulted for over fifty organizations around the globe, including Amyris, Biogen Idec, Booz Allen Hamilton, Frito-Lay, Gillette, L. L. Bean, 3M, Mitsubishi, Morgan Stanley, Mueller, Novartis, PPG, Reed Elsevier, Seagate, Stryker, and the U.S. Forest Service.

Professor Garvin's research interests lie in the areas of general management and strategic change. He is especially interested in business and management processes, organizational learning, and the design and leadership of large, complex organizations. He is also deeply interested in case method teaching. He is the author or co-author of ten books, including Rethinking the MBA (selected by Strategy + Business as one of the Best Business Books of 2010), General Management: Processes and Action, Learning in Action, Education for Judgment, and Managing Quality; more than thirty-five articles, including "How Google Sold Its Engineers on Management," "Change Through Persuasion," "What Every CEO Should Know About Creating New Businesses," and "What You Don't Know About Making Decisions;" eight CD-ROMs and videotape series, including A Case Study Teacher in Action, Working Smarter, and Putting the Learning Organization to Work; and over sixty HBS case studies, multimedia exercises, and technical notes. He is a three-time winner of the McKinsey Award, given annually for the best article in Harvard Business Review; a winner of the Beckhard Prize, given annually for the best article on planned change and organizational development in Sloan Management Review; and a winner of the Smith-Weld Prize, given annually for the best article on the University in Harvard Magazine. He has been cited in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, Economist, Business Week, Fortune, and Fast Company.

Professor Garvin received an A.B. summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1974, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and a Ph.D. in economics from M.I.T. in 1979, where he held a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship and a Sloan Foundation Fellowship.

Prior to coming to the Business School, he worked as an economist for both the Federal Trade Commission, studying federal energy policies, and the Sloan Commission on Government and Higher Education, studying the impact of federal regulation on the academic and financial policies of colleges and universities. He has served on the Board of Overseers of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the Manufacturing Studies Board of the National Research Council, and the Board of Directors of Emerson Hospital.

In his spare time, he enjoys hiking, bicycling, and travel. He lives in Lexington, Massachusetts with his wife, Lynn, and his daughters, Diana and Cynthia.

Course Development

General Management: Processes and Action (GMPA) focuses on implementation and the way that general managers get things done.  Typically, they work through processes—sequences of tasks and activities that unfold over time, like strategic planning, business development, and budgeting—to move their organizations forward and achieve results.  Skill at influencing the design, direction, and functioning of processes is therefore essential to effective general management, and the aim of GMPA is to develop in students a deeper understanding of these activities and their links to performance.  It does so by describing a number of critical organizational and managerial processes, outlining their basic elements and operating characteristics, and exploring how they are best influenced and led.  Throughout, the focus is on high-level processes that are of interest to general managers; for this reason, case protagonists are typically division presidents or higher.

Advanced Management Program (AMP) helps drive corporate performance by honing individual capabilities to the highest level of performance. The result is a personal transformation with profound organizational implications. Participants return to their sponsoring organizations with the tools and knowledge to make the toughest decisions, skillfully and confidently. They also bring a greater understanding of global business and the constantly expanding responsibilities of executive leadership. Most important, they return with the confidence and determination to act on that understanding in innovative ways that will further enhance the performance of their organizations.

David A. Garvin works with the highest level of executive to examine 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 responsibilites and oversee and orchestrate work, and change processes that fundamentally revamp and improve organizational performance. Cases exploring the general manager's role in setting these processes in motion, monitoring them continuously, and shaping and directing them as they unfold over time serve as the basis for this Advanced Management Program course.