Leadership Execution and Action Planning - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Leadership Execution and Action Planning

Course Number 2031

Senior Lecturer David G. Fubini
Fall; Q1Q2; 3 credits
28 sessions
Assistant Professor Ryan L. Raffaelli
Spring; Q3Q4; 3 credits
28 sessions

Career Focus

If Leadership and Organizational Behavior (LEAD) largely dealt with “what” leaders and managers should do, LEAP focuses on “how” they should take action. The course is designed to give students pattern recognition practice in the effort to transition from the theory of the classroom to the reality of the marketplace. By focusing on six categories of common challenges that leaders face (e.g., business expansion, post-merger integration, organizational reinvention), the course equips students with a toolkit for mobilizing action.

Educational Objectives

The course takes the point of view of a leader who is: (1) new to a situation, (2) must take action, and (3) is asked to operate within a system that (s)he may not fully control or has not designed.

Course objectives include:

  1. Illustrate how difficult projects get done and how performance improvements are delivered, with a specific focus on how action plans get formulated and carried out. Students will be introduced to several general tactics, as well as common traps, related to action planning and execution.
  2. Build on the implementation concepts that are introduced in the required curriculum, but for which greater exploration and practice is often desired by many students as they prepare to reenter the workforce.
  3. Offer opportunities for students to examine the nuances of implementation across a variety of organizational contexts and settings, and from the perspectives of individuals situated at multiple levels of hierarchy within the organization. We will focus on leaders at various stages in their career, starting with their first job after HBS, various operational and functional leadership roles, and from the perspective of the senior executive. The course will help students reflect on and prepare for the unique and common challenges individuals face throughout a career.
  4. Hear from a variety of seasoned executives about their biggest execution failures.
  5. Create individual action plans related to the likely career transitions that students will face in the next 5-10 years.

Course Content and Organization

Case settings will highlight two organizing schemes for the course. First, the course is organized around six common execution challenges where companies and managers often have the right set of objectives and a sound strategy, but where “getting things done” is difficult and where implementation challenges can be widely different. Second, the course will focus on the manager’s career trajectory. Cases will also focus on the execution challenges that protagonists face from early stage (post-graduation) to the C-suite. Overall, the course will examine how executives should architect, launch, run, adapt, and conclude efforts to implement action plans.

The six arenas include:

  • Business expansion for small and medium enterprises
  • New product and service expansion
  • Managing mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures
  • Global expansion
  • Organizational reinvention
  • Action Planning for your own career

We expect to have a number of CEO guests in class, including several case protagonists. We will also invite other senior executives to attend classes and ask them to describe how they would have responded to the protagonist’s dilemma and to comment on student approaches.

In addition to participation in case discussions, students will be required to complete a final exam and some written action planning exercises throughout the term.