Sandra J. Sucher
MBA Class of 1966 Professor of Management Practice, Joseph L. Rice, III Faculty Fellow
SANDRA J. SUCHER joined the Technology and Operations Management Unit faculty of Harvard Business School after 25 years in industry and nonprofit management. She has led and taught the required MBA course, “Leadership and Corporate Accountability” and has taught "The Moral Leader" – an elective in the MBA curriculum. She has also taught "Technology and Operations Management" and related courses in various Executive Education programs. Her current research focuses on the human costs of layoffs and their alternatives; she also studies moral leadership, learning through literature, and the management of differences. Professor Sucher has published two books on the Moral Leader course: an instructor’s guide, Teaching The Moral Leader: A Literature-Based Leadership Course (Routledge 2007), and a student textbook, The Moral Leader: Challenges, Tools, and Insights (Routledge 2008).
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, introducing process management as a framework for cross-functional improvement. As Vice President of Human Resources for Fidelity's Service Company, she introduced statistical process control to improve the quality of operations performance in Fidelity's retail back office.
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. She led a reorganization of the business, creating a separate career path for store management executives. In her last assignment, as Vice President of Customer Service, she improved customer service for Filene's then 14-unit regional business.
Sucher began her career as a Director of Education and Research for The Sanctuary, Inc., a non-profit drop-in drug treatment, education, and research facility.
Sucher's Board assignments include: Board of Governors - Harvard Business School Association of Boston (2000 - 2005); Director of Port Financial (2000 - 2003); Chairman of the Better Business Bureau (1994-1996); Director of The Eliot Bank (1986 -1990); Radcliffe Management Seminars Program Advisory Board (1980 - 2000); and Director of the National Coordinating Council on Drug Education (1972-74).
Sucher received her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1976 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. Sucher is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
The Human Costs of Layoffs: Workforce Reductions and their Alternatives
This research project examines a profoundly difficult and practical question facing managers: How to manage workforce reductions—critical to responding to economic cycles and strategic shifts—while making good on responsibilities to employees, companies, shareholders, and communities around the world?
The primary objective of this research is to develop a framework to help senior business leaders make better decisions about when to make workforce reduction decisions (and when to avoid reducing the workforce to pursue alternative approaches), how to implement the reductions in more efficient and humane ways, and how to mitigate potential harm to departing workers, to the company and its surviving employees, and to local communities.
The project has already produced output including: 1) five technical notes for students, including notes on the effects of layoffs on key stakeholders, best practices in conducting layoffs, and on the legal requirements of managing layoffs in selected countries, 2) video interviews with laid off employees to demonstrate the impacts these decisions have on the lives of individual people—currently 10 video interviews with laid off employees from the U.S., France, and India.
We are now engaged in research on the costs and benefits and implementation challenges of different types of workforce reduction policies. Two cases are in development. The first is on a company’s use of employee furloughs (unpaid leaves) as an alternative to layoffs during the Great Recession. The second is on a multi-faceted company program to manage the lay off of nearly 20,000 employees, including the use of employee innovation grants for approved business plans for departing employees. Future research will include an examination of ‘no layoff’ policies, and the management of long-horizon facility/site closings, an essential feature of workforce reductions in extractive industries.
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?
The Management of Differences
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.