Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Building and Sustaining a Successful Enterprise

Course Number 1504

Senior Lecturer Chet Huber
Associate Professor Rory McDonald
Fall; Q1Q2; 3 credits
28 Sessions
Senior Lecturer Allison Mnookin
Senior Lecturer Derek van Bever
Spring; Q3Q4; 3 credits
28 Sessions

Career Focus

Leaders who aspire to run successful enterprises need to develop and execute a winning business formula. Difficult enough, but the reward for building a successful business is that the leader must then spot when external conditions require a change to the formula. And the more successful the business, the harder that piece will be to pull off. This course, which introduces a series of powerful theoretical frameworks for navigating these critical moments in enterprise growth, will prove valuable to students who anticipate managing, advising, or investing in any of a variety of companies-from category-creating startups to industry-leading incumbents.

Educational Objectives

The focus of the course is to learn to use well-researched theories about strategy, innovation, and management to understand why things happen the way they do in businesses, and to predict which tools, strategies, and methods will and will not be effective in the various circumstances in which our students find themselves.

Course Content and Objectives

This course was created by Professor Clayton Christensen to help students become insightful consumers and teachers of practical management theory and techniques. Early sessions will introduce models about the key jobs of the general manager, who must integrate the marketing, product development, operations, strategic planning, financial, and human dimensions of the enterprise. We will employ these models throughout the course to understand the root causes of the challenges that the general managers in our cases are facing, and to develop action plans for resolving them. During case discussions, we will seek to answer some of the following questions, which are relevant to companies of all sizes:

  1. What is disruptive innovation? How can entrants disrupt market leaders, and what can market leaders do to avoid disruption?
  2. Who is our ideal customer? How can we create products and brands that will appeal to those customers?
  3. How should we decide which activities to keep in-house and which to outsource?
  4. When is an industry about to be commoditized, and how can we profit from that shift?
  5. How do we set strategy in a rapidly changing world (where unknowns vastly outweigh knowns)?
  6. Whose investment capital will help us, and whose money might undermine our chances of success?
  7. To what extent do commonly used performance metrics kill innovation, and how can we develop metrics that encourage new growth?
  8. Can acquisitions become a pathway to new capabilities? Should we integrate acquired companies or keep them separate?
  9. What is the role of the CEO in building new growth engines within established companies?

Course Organization and Grading

The course includes a final paper, to be completed by teams. The paper will not require field or library research; instead, it will provide an opportunity for students to apply theories introduced in the course to explore the opportunities and challenges of a company they know and/or in which they have a current interest. Grading is based on class participation (50%) and the final paper (50%).

slightly modified schedule in the late afternoon time slot, eliminating two sessions and running half of the others 20 mins longer to accommodate guests and some special exercises. Details will be available through Canvas closer to term start.