Sandra J. Sucher

MBA Class of 1966 Professor of Management Practice

SANDRA J. SUCHER is Professor of Management Practice, Joseph L. Rice, III Faculty Fellow at Harvard Business School. Sucher joined the faculty of Harvard Business School after 25 years in industry and nonprofit management and is a member of the General Management Unit. Sucher’s executive experiences have shaped her interests, teaching, and research. She is currently writing a book, Layoffs—The Cure That Kills: How Layoffs Are Destroying Companies and the Proven Alternatives Managers Need to Know. It is based on her seven-year study of the risks, costs, and inadvertent harms of layoffs globally and describes enlightened workforce strategies—alternatives to 'layoffs as usual'—being implemented at companies like Honeywell, Royal Dutch Shell, Michelin, Lincoln Electric, and Suzhou Good-Ark Electronics in countries including the United States, China, France, Finland, Romania, Hungary, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, and Japan.

SANDRA J. SUCHER is Professor of Management Practice, Joseph L. Rice, III Faculty Fellow at Harvard Business School. Sucher joined the faculty of Harvard Business School after 25 years in industry and nonprofit management and is a member of the General Management Unit. Sucher’s executive experiences have shaped her interests, teaching, and research. She is currently writing a book, Layoffs—The Cure That Kills: How Layoffs Are Destroying Companies and the Proven Alternatives Managers Need to Know. It is based on her seven-year study of the risks, costs, and inadvertent harms of layoffs globally and describes enlightened workforce strategies being implemented at companies like Honeywell, Royal Dutch Shell, Michelin, Lincoln Electric, and Suzhou Good-Ark Electronics in countries including the United States, China, France, Finland, Romania, Hungary, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, and Japan.    Sucher's prior research has centered on the ethically ‘gray’ areas of business, moral leadership, and managing differences. For ten years, she taught (and for five years, led) the required MBA course, “Leadership and Corporate Accountability.” For fourteen years she has taught "The Moral Leader" – an elective in the MBA curriculum that examines leadership and moral decision making through literature and historical accounts. Sucher is the author of two books on “The Moral Leader” course: The Moral Leader: Challenges, Insights and Tools, (Routledge 2008) and Teaching The Moral Leader: A Literature-based Leadership Course, A Guide For Instructors (Routledge 2007).  From 1986 until 1998, Sucher worked at Fidelity Investments. As Vice President of Corporate Quality, she focused the firm's division-level quality groups on customer loyalty research. As Vice President of Retail Service Quality, she set service strategy for the retail business and improved service and operations processes, including the processes of opening new accounts, solving customer problems, and transferring assets among financial firms.  Prior to Fidelity, Sucher spent 10 years in fashion retailing at Filene's, a Boston-based department store chain. She wrote the proposal, approved by Federated Department Stores, to expand Filene's Basement from a single store to a national chain. In her last assignment, as Vice President of Customer Service, she improved customer service for Filene's then 14-unit regional business. Sucher has served on two corporate boards and as Chair of the Better Business Bureau of Boston. Sucher received her MBA from Harvard Business School with first- and second-year honors; she also earned a Masters of Arts in Teaching from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a BA from the University of Michigan, High Distinction, Phi Beta Kappa.

  1. Layoffs—The Cure That Kills: How Layoffs Are Destroying Companies and the Proven Alternatives Managers Need to Know

    by Sandra J. Sucher

    Layoffs are one of today's most common business practices. When sales or profits fall, when the economy hits a rough patch, when maket shifts or technological innovations demand a change in strategy, or when shareholders complain about a lagging stock price, one of the first tools corporations reach for is a "reduction in force," a "collective dismissal," a "redundancy"—that is, a layoff by whatever name they choose.

    And while Americas may assume that layoffs are mainly a US phenomenon driven by trends like globalization, in fact they happen everywhere. In just one recent month—September 2015—I spotted 250 announcements of layoffs in countries from the United Kingdom to China, South Africa to Italy. Layoffs spark anger from discarded workers and their families, citizens who see their neighborhoods and cities spiraling downward after companies depart, community members outraged over their abandonment by businesses that have benefited from tax breaks and other government benefits, and economists and politicians worried about stagnant growth and rising income inequality exacerbated by layoffs.

    The only justification for the damage caused by layoffs is that they are believed to be unavoidable and, in fact, essential for the economic survival and health of companies. But more than two decades of academic research shows that this is simply not true. In fact, Layofffs as they are commonly practiced harm companies themselves even as they harm workers and communities.

    The Cure That Kills
    will describe the five areas of company performance that are most likely to suffer following a layoff: quality and safety; innovation; customer sales and service; employee attraction, engagement, and retention; and company reputation. These hidden costs of layoff more than offset the cost reductions that supposedly justify the firings.

    But there is a path to innovative, successful, and humane approaches to workforce change. The Cure That Kills will delve deeply into the stories behind these new strategies and the leaders who have developed them. For example, readers will learn how Jean-Dominique Senard, CEO of Michelin, has developed a multi-year strategy process that features planning for restructuring before economic trends require it—and that empowers workers to shape those plans. Other leaders and companies featured in the book include Dave Cote, CEO of Honeywell, Jorma Ollila, former Chairman of Nokia, and Wu Nianbo, Chairman of China's Suzhou Good-Ark Electronics Company.

    Together these stories will show the path to a better way. The tactics differ, ranging from better approaches to layoffs and the use of furloughs to manage tgemporary economic downturns to no-layoff business models. But in combination they represent a way of managing workforce change that is worlds away from layoffs as usual. My goal is to start a new conversation about layoffs and to inspire managers to try new and provwen approaches to workforce change that will benefit them and the thousands of people they affect by their decisions.

    Keywords: layoffs; Leadership and Change Management; Global innovation; strategic decision making; multinational corporations; Resignation and Termination; Manufacturing Industry; Telecommunications Industry; Rubber Industry; Employment Industry; United States; France; Germany; Hungary; Finland; United Kingdom; Netherlands; China; Japan; Brazil;

  2. Moral Leadership

    by Sandra J. Sucher

    In 2007 and 2008, Professor Sucher  published an instructor manual and student textbook based on 'The Moral Leader,' a literature-based course on leadership that has been taught at Harvard Business School for more than 20 years. The course focuses on core ethical questions that managers wrestle with: What is the nature of a moral challenge? How do people “reason morally?” What do these look like when they are undertaken by leaders – individuals who must make decisions under conditions of responsibility for others?

     

     

  3. The Management of Differences

    by Sandra J. Sucher

    Professor Sucher has developed cases and other teaching materials that aim to provide thought-provoking, real-world examples of the ways in which social identity differences emerge and are managed in the workplace. These materials include "Differences at Work," 11 mini-cases based on HBS students' own experiences of social identity challenges in the workplace (developed with Robin Cherry Glass (MBA/MPA 2007) and Professor Robin Ely), conceptual notes on the individual experience and leadership challenges of managing differences, and, most recently, "Global Diversity and Inclusion at Royal Dutch Shell," a case that examines the challenges of managing differences in 100 countries around the world.