Cynthia A. Montgomery - Faculty & Research - Harvard Business School
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Cynthia A. Montgomery

Timken Professor of Business Administration
Director of Research

Professor Montgomery's research centers on strategy and corporate governance. Of particular interest are the unique roles leaders play in developing and implementing strategy; the means organizations use to create value across multiple lines of business; and issues related to corporate boards of directors. Her work has appeared in nearly a dozen top-tier managerial and academic outlets, including Harvard Business Review, Financial Times, American Economic Review, Rand Journal of Economics, Strategic Management Journal, The Academy of Management Journal, Management Science, The Journal of Business, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, and others. She is the author of The Strategist: Be the Leader your Business Needs (HarperBusiness, 2012), which has been translated into 14 languages; the co-author of Corporate Strategy: Resources and the Scope of the Firm (with David J. Collis); the editor of Resource-Based and Evolutionary Theories of the Firm; and the co-editor of Strategy: Seeking and Securing Competitive Advantage (with Michael E. Porter).

At Harvard Business School, Professor Montgomery twice received the Greenhill Award for her contributions to the School’s pedagogical mission. Prior to Harvard, Montgomery taught at the Graduate School of Business at the University of Michigan and at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management where she was recognized with its Outstanding Teacher of the Year award.  Her dissertation work on corporate level strategy won the General Electric Award for Outstanding Research in Strategic Management.  

Montgomery has served on the Board of Directors of two Fortune 500 companies--NewellRubbermaid, Inc. and UnumProvident--and a number of mutual funds managed by BlackRock, Inc. She has also served on several not-for-profit boards, including Harvard Business Publishing and McLean Hospital.

Journal Articles
  1. Are Incentives Without Expertise Sufficient? Evidence from Fortune 500 Firms

    Emilie R. Feldman and Cynthia A. Montgomery

    Agency theory predicts that incentives will align agents' interests with those of principals. However, the resource-based view suggests that to be effective, the incentive to deliver must be paired with the ability to deliver. Using Fortune 500 boards as an empirical context, this study shows that the presence of directors who lack top-level experience but own large shareholdings is negatively associated with firm value, an effect that increases in the number of such directors. Firm value rises after such directors depart from boards, with the greatest increases occurring when many of these directors leave. While agency theory highlights the importance of the right incentives being in place, this research suggests that this can be ineffective if the right resources are not in place.

    Keywords: board of directors; corporate governance; incentives; expertise; Motivation and Incentives; Governing and Advisory Boards; Experience and Expertise; Agency Theory;


    Feldman, Emilie R., and Cynthia A. Montgomery. "Are Incentives Without Expertise Sufficient? Evidence from Fortune 500 Firms." Strategic Management Journal 36, no. 1 (January 2015): 113–122.  View Details
  2. Putting Leadership Back into Strategy

    Cynthia A. Montgomery

    In recent decades an infusion of economics has lent the study of strategy much needed theory and empirical evidence. Strategy consultants, armed with frameworks and techniques, have stepped forward to help managers analyze their industries and position their companies for strategic advantage. Strategy has come to be seen as an analytical problem to be solved. But, says Montgomery, the Timken Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, the benefits of this rigorous approach have attendant costs: Strategy has become a competitive game plan, separate from the company's larger sense of purpose. The CEO's unique role as arbiter and steward of strategy has been eclipsed. And an overemphasis on sustainable competitive advantage has obscured the importance of making strategy a dynamic tool for guiding the company's development over time. For any company, intelligent guidance requires a clear sense of purpose, of what makes the organization truly distinctive. Purpose, Montgomery says, serves as both a constraint on activity and a guide to behavior. Creativity and insight are key to forging a compelling organizational purpose; analysis alone will never suffice. As the CEO - properly a company's chief strategist - translates purpose into practice, he or she must remain open to the possibility that the purpose itself may need to change. Lou Gerstner did this in the 1990s, when he decided that IBM would evolve to focus on applying technology rather than on inventing it. So did Steve Jobs, when he rescued Apple from a poorly performing strategy and expanded the company into attractive new businesses. Watching over strategy day in and day out is the CEO's greatest opportunity to shape the firm as well as outwit the competition.

    Keywords: Leadership; Growth and Development Strategy; Managerial Roles; Mission and Purpose; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Creativity; Competitive Strategy; Competitive Advantage;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A. "Putting Leadership Back into Strategy." Special Issue on HBS Centennial. Harvard Business Review 86, no. 1 (January 2008): 54–60.  View Details
Book Chapters
  1. An Exploration of Common Ground: Integrating Evolutionary and Strategic Theories of the Firm

    C. A. Montgomery, N. Juul Foss and C. Knudsen


    Montgomery, C. A., N. Juul Foss, and C. Knudsen. "An Exploration of Common Ground: Integrating Evolutionary and Strategic Theories of the Firm." In Resource-Based and Evolutionary Theories of the Firm: Towards a Synthesis, edited by C. A. Montgomery, 1–17. Norwell, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1995.  View Details
Working Papers
Cases and Teaching Materials
  1. The On-Demand Economy

    Cynthia A. Montgomery, James Weber and Elizabeth Anne Watkins

    This note describes the emerging on-demand economy, also referred to as the sharing economy. The note highlights several companies including Uber and Airbnb that exemplify this new mode of competition, a model that threatens to disrupt traditional firms. Uber provides ride services much like a traditional taxi company, but it owns no cars and employs no drivers, and instead matches independent car owners with customers looking for rides. Airbnb provides a lodging service, but owns no hotels, and instead matches home owners with extra rooms with customers looking for a place to stay. The note allows students to explore what impact such companies might have on traditional business models, what impact they might have on labor and how people work, and whether existing regulations aimed at traditional business models are adequate for the new model.

    Keywords: regulation; reform; Disruption; Disruptive Innovation; Strategy; Technological Innovation; Labor; Employment; Working Conditions; Human Capital; Rights; Organizational Design; Social and Collaborative Networks; Service Industry;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A., James Weber, and Elizabeth Anne Watkins. "The On-Demand Economy." Harvard Business School Technical Note 716-405, September 2015.  View Details
  2. Steve Jobs: Leader Strategist

    Cynthia A. Montgomery and David B. Yoffie

    Strategically, Steve Jobs got it brilliantly right some times and terribly wrong other times. This case examines Jobs' development as a leader strategist over the course of his entire career. The successes and failures of Apple, NeXT, and Pixar are used to probe the role of strategy in organizational success and to examine a leader's distinctive responsibility to set (and reset) a viable course for a business. While Jobs' greatness may make him seem inaccessible at times, a closer look shows that some of his most valuable managerial capabilities were honed slowly, painfully, over time, and that there is much others can learn from his experience.

    Keywords: strategy; leadership; strategist; Steve Jobs; competitive advantage; Apple; Leadership; Competitive Advantage; Personal Development and Career; Strategy;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A., and David B. Yoffie. "Steve Jobs: Leader Strategist." Harvard Business School Case 715-454, April 2015. (Revised June 2015.)  View Details
  3. Indigo Telecom Australia

    Cynthia A. Montgomery and Keith Chi-ho Wong

    Two entrepreneurs identify an opportunity to bring ubiquitous satellite phone service to the outback of Australia. This case challenges students to carefully identify and evaluate the added-value the firm is bringing to the market, its priorities in implementation, and two quite different visions about who the firm should serve, and the range of products and services it should offer, in the short to intermediate term.

    Keywords: strategy; start-up; co-founders; entrepreneurs; Entrepreneurship; Business Startups; Business Strategy; Telecommunications Industry; Australia;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A., and Keith Chi-ho Wong. "Indigo Telecom Australia." Harvard Business School Case 712-492, May 2012.  View Details
  4. CARD Group: Mutually Reinforcing Institutions

    Cynthia A. Montgomery, Michael Shih-Ta Chen and Dawn Lau

    CARD (Center for Agricultural and Rural Development) is a Philippines-based microfinance organization that began as an NGO and has since expanded into eight related entities providing services to the poor. Under Founding Director Dr. Aristotle Alip's leadership, CARD has become one of the top microfinance institutions in the world. More recently, larger commercial and financial institutions are seeking a slice of the microfinance market. The main dilemma Dr. Alip faces is: Should he partner with commercial institutions to reap benefits from their larger sources of capital and technology expertise? Would that mean compromising his original mission of elevating people from the base of the pyramid?

    Keywords: Microfinance; Partners and Partnerships; Non-Governmental Organizations; Business Strategy; Competitive Strategy; Financial Services Industry; Philippines;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A., Michael Shih-Ta Chen, and Dawn Lau. "CARD Group: Mutually Reinforcing Institutions." Harvard Business School Case 712-414, September 2011. (Revised December 2011.)  View Details
  5. Strategy: Building and Sustaining Competitive Advantage

    Bharat N. Anand, Stephen P. Bradley, Pankaj Ghemawat, Tarun Khanna, Cynthia A. Montgomery, Michael E. Porter, Jan W. Rivkin, Michael G. Rukstad, John R. Wells and David B. Yoffie

    It's great to have a blockbuster quarter or a revolutionary product or service, but true business excellence demands sustainability. Maintaining your competitive advantage requires a strategy that makes your business unique and carries you forward as the world around you changes. What makes a winning, sustainable strategy? Strategy: Building and Sustaining Competitive Advantage is a multimedia resource developed by ten faculty members in the Strategy Department at Harvard Business School. Included in this resource are faculty presentation, animated frameworks, print- and video-based case studies, and workbooks to help business leaders formulate action plans specific to their own companies.

    Keywords: Competitive Advantage;


    "Strategy: Building and Sustaining Competitive Advantage." Harvard Business School Class Lecture 705-509, June 2005. (Revised September 2008.)  View Details
  6. Tyco International

    Cynthia A. Montgomery, Robert E. Kennedy, Lisa J. Chadderdon and Hal Hogan

    Tyco, a diversified U.S. conglomerate, has grown rapidly for more than 20 years. This case examines Tyco's acquisition strategy as well as its internal control systems.

    Keywords: Business Conglomerates; Growth and Development Strategy; Growth Management; Corporate Strategy; Business or Company Management; Mergers and Acquisitions; Business Strategy; Manufacturing Industry; United States;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A., Robert E. Kennedy, Lisa J. Chadderdon, and Hal Hogan. "Tyco International." Harvard Business School Case 798-061, March 1998. (Revised May 2007.)  View Details
  7. HNA Group: "A Miracle in Civil Aviation"

    Cynthia A. Montgomery and Carole Winkler

    Chen Feng and three others started Hainan Airlines in China during a historic transformation and privatization of the civil aviation industry. From a small loan from the local province in 1992, Chairman Chen built the company into a conglomerate that, by 2003, owned airlines, hotels, airports, travel agencies, an insurance company, and a department store. Despite its many successes, including being the first airline in China to attract foreign capital, the company faces many challenges at both the business and corporate levels. Was the company's increasing breadth a distraction to the airline business or a route to competitive advantage? Going forward, what should be Chen's priorities?

    Keywords: Growth Management; Air Transportation; Business Growth and Maturation; Competitive Advantage; Emerging Markets; Business Startups; Air Transportation Industry; China;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A., and Carole Winkler. HNA Group: "A Miracle in Civil Aviation". Harvard Business School Case 705-426, May 2005. (Revised February 2007.)  View Details
  8. Newell Rubbermaid: Strategy in Transition

    Cynthia A. Montgomery, Rhonda Kaufman and Carole Winkler

    Describes the transformation of a company's corporate-level strategy. Begins by laying out the strategy that brought the Newell Co. stunning success for nearly three decades. The highly integrated, internally consistent strategy was tailored for manufacturing and selling a particular genre of products to a particular kind of customer. In the mid-1990s, Newell encountered some shifts in its competitive environment and a subtle erosion in profits. In 1999, the $3.5 billion company paid a 49% premium to acquire the $2.5 billion Rubbermaid Co., in part for its product development process and strong consumer brands. After the acquisition, the profits of the combined enterprise deteriorated at an accelerated rate and the CEO was replaced. In less than a year, a fundamentally new strategy was announced, profits improved, and both Wall Street and major retailers were encouraged. Some setbacks followed, leading to reduced earnings and revised expectations. Exposes students to the pains and struggles of changing a deeply ingrained and long-lived strategy. Also forces them to confront the question of whether the new strategy is the right one and the markers one should seek to prove the case.

    Keywords: Change Management; Corporate Strategy; Transformation; Problems and Challenges; Acquisition; Product Development; Brands and Branding; Manufacturing Industry; Retail Industry; United States;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A., Rhonda Kaufman, and Carole Winkler. "Newell Rubbermaid: Strategy in Transition." Harvard Business School Case 704-491, March 2004. (Revised September 2005.)  View Details
  9. Newell Company: Corporate Strategy

    Cynthia A. Montgomery and Elizabeth Gordon

    In 1998, Newell Co., a manufacturer of low-tech, high-volume consumer goods, acquired Calphalon Corp., a high-end cookware company, and Rubbermaid, a $2 billion manufacturer of consumer and commercial plastic products. The case focuses on Newell's strategy and its elaboration throughout the organization, as well as the importance of selecting appropriate acquisitions to grow the company. Do Calphalon and Rubbermaid fit with the company's long-term strategy of growth through acquisition and superior service to volume customers? A rewritten version of an earlier case.

    Keywords: Mergers and Acquisitions; Customer Focus and Relationships; Customer Satisfaction; Business or Company Management; Goals and Objectives; Growth and Development Strategy; Strategy; Competitive Strategy; Corporate Strategy; Consumer Products Industry;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A., and Elizabeth Gordon. "Newell Company: Corporate Strategy." Harvard Business School Case 799-139, March 1999. (Revised January 2005.)  View Details
  10. Vivendi (A): Revitalizing a French Conglomerate

    Cynthia A. Montgomery and John M. Turner

    Examines corporate strategy for a diversified firm in the French business context. Issues include corporate governance, vision, and the management of unrelated diversification. After the company's first loss ever, the Vivendi board elected a new chairman who completed a financial restructuring and articulated a new corporate strategy. His actions were in part determined by the French business environment, which does not easily permit staff reductions, and by the increasing importance of foreign investors in France.

    Keywords: Business Conglomerates; Technological Innovation; Business or Company Management; Goals and Objectives; Growth and Development Strategy; Competitive Strategy; Corporate Strategy; Diversification; Media and Broadcasting Industry; Telecommunications Industry; France;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A., and John M. Turner. "Vivendi (A): Revitalizing a French Conglomerate." Harvard Business School Case 799-019, December 1998. (Revised May 2003.)  View Details
  11. Newell Company: Corporate Strategy TN

    Cynthia A. Montgomery

    Teaching Note for (9-799-139). A rewritten version of an earlier teaching note.

    Keywords: Corporate Strategy; Strategy; Diversification; Strategic Planning; Acquisition; Business Conglomerates; Horizontal Integration; Growth and Development Strategy; Business Strategy; Mergers and Acquisitions; Retail Industry;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A. "Newell Company: Corporate Strategy TN." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 702-401, July 2001.  View Details
  12. PepsiCo's Restaurants

    Cynthia A. Montgomery

    In 1992 PepsiCo is considering two opportunities to expand its restaurant business, Carts of Colorado, a $7 million manufacturer and merchandiser of mobile food carts, and California Pizza Kitchen, a $60 million chain in the casual dining segment. The discussion focuses on whether PepsiCo should pursue these opportunities, and if so, how the relationships might be structured, given PepsiCo's large organization and decentralized management structure. Examines strategy formulation and coordination issues in a related set of businesses that are part of a large, decentralized consumer products company.

    Keywords: Management Systems; Organizational Structure; Opportunities; Business Strategy; Expansion; Food and Beverage Industry;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A. "PepsiCo's Restaurants." Harvard Business School Case 794-078, January 1994. (Revised February 2001.)  View Details
  13. Masco Corp. (A)

    Michael E. Porter and Cynthia A. Montgomery

    Describes the history and corporate position of a large and successful producer of faucets and related household products. Masco is considering entry into the $14 billion furniture industry. Designed to be used with Household Furniture Industry in 1986 in a strategy course on corporate strategy for diversified firms.

    Keywords: Diversification; Market Entry and Exit; Corporate Strategy; Rank and Position; Consumer Products Industry;


    Porter, Michael E., and Cynthia A. Montgomery. "Masco Corp. (A)." Harvard Business School Case 389-186, April 1989. (Revised December 1998.)  View Details
  14. Household Furniture Industry in 1986

    Michael E. Porter and Cynthia A. Montgomery

    Profiles the household furniture industry in the United States in 1986. Designed for use with Masco Corp. (A) and (B).

    Keywords: Supply and Industry; Consumer Products Industry;


    Porter, Michael E., and Cynthia A. Montgomery. "Household Furniture Industry in 1986." Harvard Business School Background Note 389-189, April 1989. (Revised December 1998.)  View Details
  15. General Mills Board and Strategic Planning and Lukens Inc., The: The Melters' Committee (A) & (B) TN

    Jay W. Lorsch, Cynthia A. Montgomery and Lisa J. Chadderdon

    Teaching Note for (9-491-117), (9-493-070), and (9-493-071).

    Keywords: Strategic Planning; Governing and Advisory Boards; Joint Ventures; Sales; Strategy; Managerial Roles; Steel Industry;


    Lorsch, Jay W., Cynthia A. Montgomery, and Lisa J. Chadderdon. "General Mills Board and Strategic Planning and Lukens Inc., The: The Melters' Committee (A) & (B) TN." Harvard Business School Teaching Note 796-082, February 1996. (Revised June 1996.)  View Details
  16. Marks and Spencer Ltd. (A)

    Cynthia A. Montgomery

    Marks and Spencer is a highly regarded retailer in the United Kingdom. This case examines the history of the firm, its organizational capabilities, and its long standing relationships with employees, customers, and suppliers. Also discusses the firm's expansion into Europe and Canada. May be used with Marks and Spencer Ltd. (B).

    Keywords: Expansion; Organizational Design; Relationships; Retail Industry; United Kingdom;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A. "Marks and Spencer Ltd. (A)." Harvard Business School Case 391-089, March 1991. (Revised December 1994.)  View Details
  17. Marks and Spencer Ltd. (B)

    Cynthia A. Montgomery

    Describes the firm's 1988 expansion into the United States through the acquisition of Brooks Brothers, a specialty up-market men's clothing chain and Kings Super Markets, a high quality New Jersey grocer.

    Keywords: Growth and Development Strategy; Expansion; Business Strategy; Mergers and Acquisitions; Globalization; Retail Industry; United States;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A. "Marks and Spencer Ltd. (B)." Harvard Business School Case 391-090, March 1991. (Revised December 1994.)  View Details
  18. Berkshire Partners

    Cynthia A. Montgomery

    Berkshire Partners is a limited partnership engaged in the acquisition of companies valued between $25 million and $250 million. The purpose of the case is to examine the resources of the firm and discuss the firm's competitive advantage vis-a-vis other types of organizations.

    Keywords: Working Capital; Partners and Partnerships; Competitive Advantage; Acquisition; Corporate Finance;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A. "Berkshire Partners." Harvard Business School Case 391-091, March 1991. (Revised August 1994.)  View Details
  19. Resources: The Essence of Corporate Advantage

    Cynthia A. Montgomery

    Introduces the idea that a firm's resources are at the heart of corporate advantage. Identifies six characteristics of a resource that together describe its potential for creating value for the firm.

    Keywords: Resource Allocation; Competitive Advantage; Value Creation;


    Montgomery, Cynthia A. "Resources: The Essence of Corporate Advantage." Harvard Business School Background Note 792-064, February 1992.  View Details
Other Publications and Materials