Robert Simons

Charles M. Williams Professor of Business Administration

Bob Simons is the Charles M. Williams Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Over the last 30 years, Simons has taught accounting, management control, and strategy execution courses in both the Harvard MBA and Executive Education Programs. During 2017/2018 he is teaching “Designing Competitive Organizations,” a second-year MBA course, and "Driving Corporate Performance," a program for general managers and financial executives. 

In January 2017, Simons published a 15-module series on Strategy Execution available through Harvard Business School Publishing. While each module is designed to be used alone, the series forms a complete course that teaches—either through self-study or in the classroom—the latest techniques for using performance measurement and control systems to implement strategy. Modules 1 - 4 set out the foundations for strategy implementation. Modules 5 - 10 teach quantitative tools for performance measurement and control. Modules 11 - 15 illustrate the use of these techniques by managers to achieve profit goals and strategies.

Simons has also developed a new, online app called the Job Design Optimization Tool (JDOT) which is available free-of-charge from Harvard Business School Publishing. This tool can be used to design, or test the design, of any job in any organization.

Simons’ books include Seven Strategy Questions: A Simple Approach for Better Execution (2010) and Levers of Organization Design: How Managers Use Accountability Systems for Greater Performance and Commitment (2005). In addition, he has written Levers of Control (1995) that describes how effective top managers balance innovation and control. This book won the Notable Contribution to Management Accounting Literature award.

In addition to his books, Simons' ongoing research into the relationship between business strategy, organization design, and management control systems has been published in journals such as Harvard Business Review, Capitalism and Society, Sloan Management Review, Strategic Management Journal, Accounting, Organizations and Society, Contemporary Accounting Research, and Journal of Accounting Literature. His articles in Harvard Business Review include “Choosing the Right Customer” (March 2014), “Stress-Test Your Strategy” (November 2010), “Managing Risk in the New World” (October 2009), “Designing High-Performance Jobs” (July 2005), “How Risky is Your Company?” (April 1999), “How High is Your Return on Management?” (January 1998), and “Control in an Age of Empowerment” (March/April 1995).

A Canadian CPA, Simons earned his Ph.D. from McGill University. Simons has served as a consultant to many companies on topics related to strategy execution, organization design, performance measurement, and strategic control. He has testified as an expert witness in U.S. Federal Court and before State Public Utility Commissions.

  1. MBA Elective Curriculum: Designing Competitive Organizations

    by Robert Simons

    The course focuses on answering one question: How can I design an organization that executes strategy better than competitors? This course will not teach you how to formulate strategy. Instead, taking strategy as given, you will learn the tools and techniques-and tough choices-that are essential for winning in any market. Case studies include companies in fast-moving technology, financial services, health care, consumer products, publishing, and high-tech manufacturing industries.

  2. Owner/President Management Program

    by Robert Simons

    As business owners and entrepreneurs prepare to take their companies to the next level in a highly competitive global arena, they must be fully equipped to master a range of skills—from strategy development to financial management to team building to negotiation. Owner/President Management (OPM) provides a transformative and supportive environment where you can step back from daily operations and learn how to become a more effective leader, deliver greater value to stakeholders, and ensure further success for you and your company.
  3. Executive Education: Driving Corporate Performance

    by Robert Simons

    As companies strive to sustain a competitive advantage in a global economy, they must continue to assess their corporate mission and reset their strategic goals. Driving Corporate Performance is designed to help business leaders accurately measure and monitor organizational progress and align front-line employees to the company's strategic objectives.
  4. Risk Management for Corporate Leaders

    by Robert Simons

    As companies adapt to the aftershocks of the global recession, senior executives and boards are discovering that risk management has never been more important. The financial crisis revealed that risk management structures break down just when they are needed most because of siloed and fragmented processes and a lack of senior executive and board support. To be fully effective, senior executives must ensure that strategic and competitive considerations are embedded within their risk management processes and structures. Harvard Business School faculty have developed Risk Management for Corporate Leaders to help managers and board members identify the different types of risk facing their organizations, achieve an appropriate balance between innovation and risk, and protect the enterprise from the consequences of unexpected events.