Mastering Strategy Execution - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Mastering Strategy Execution

Course Number 1312

Baker Foundation Professor Robert Simons
Assistant Professor Susanna Gallani
Fall; Q1Q2; 28 Sessions, Exam

Career Focus

This course will be valuable to students who will be accountable for the performance of a business (or function) as well as to entrepreneurs and consultants who want to learn how to design systems and structures to execute specific strategies.

Educational Objectives

The focus of this course is on strategy implementation, not on strategy formulation. In other words, we take business strategy as given. With an understanding of strategy in the background, this course will teach students how to execute that strategy with readings, case studies, and exercises. Using an action-oriented approach, students will learn how to align resources, set goals, establish accountability for performance, and achieve exceptional results in fast-moving, highly-competitive markets.

Course Content

The course begins by examining the tension between growth, profit, and control that leaders of all competitive businesses must manage. We then review the basics of business strategy to ensure that everyone is on the same page concerning the goals that a business is trying to achieve.

After business strategy has been clarified, the next task is to allocate resources to internal units. We consider five organization designs to meet the needs of different types of customers: low cost, local value creation, global standard of excellence, dedicated service relationship, and expert knowledge. For each configuration, students learn how to allocate resources between market-facing units (to enhance responsiveness) and operating-core units (to enhance efficiency).

Next, we turn to the design of specific jobs. We introduce four different spans— span of control, span of accountability, span of influence, and span of support— and illustrate how to adjust these spans to ensure that the supply of resources equals the demand for resources for any specific job. Students will practice this approach to learn how to promote creativity, shape employee behavior, and scale a growing business.

The final third of the course focuses on the management control systems that must be installed to execute strategy successfully. We examine how to design core values to guide decision making, how to implement accountability systems to clarify priorities and monitor performance, how to identify and manage different types of risks, and how to use formal information systems to anticipate and adapt to change.

The course wraps up by supplying students with an action-oriented checklist that can be used to ensure that any company can achieve its potential.

Concepts will be illustrated and tested using case studies in a variety of industries including consulting, consumer products, education, financial services, healthcare, hospitality, military, publishing, retail, robotics, software development, and space exploration. Students will study the choices made by thriving and struggling companies, big and small organizations, and both early-stage and mature firms.

By the end of the course, students will have gained the practical knowledge and confidence to execute business strategy, deliver results, and win in any competitive market.