The best thought-out plans in the world aren't worth the paper they're written on if you can't pull them off.
Ralph S. Larsen
Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson
The central focus of this course is strategy implementation. In particular, the course is designed to allow you to
gain knowledge, insight, and analytical skills related to how a corporation's senior executives design and
implement the ongoing management systems that are used to plan and control the firm's performance. Elements
of management systems include strategic planning; budgeting; resource allocation; performance measurement,
evaluation, and reward; and transfer pricing.
Management control is a must in any organization where decentralization exists. One perspective argues that
management systems must "fit" the firm's strategy. This implies the strategy isfirst developed through a formal
and rational process, and this strategy thendrives the design of the firm's management systems. An alternate
view is that strategiesemerge through trial-and-error and ad hoc processes, which are significantly influenced by
the firm's management systems. In this perspective, management systems caninfluence the strategy
formulation process and thus, to some extent, drive the firm's strategy. We will explore both perspectives as well
as their implications in terms of the design and operation of management systems.
The importance of the subject matter covered in this course is captured in the widely accepted "truism" that over
90 percent of businesses (as well as nonprofit organizations) founder on the rocks of implementation; either the
strategies never come into being or get distorted, or the implementation is much more costly and time
consuming than anticipated. However laudable strategic intentions may be, if they do not become reality, they
usually are not worth the paper on which they are written. Conversely, high-performing companies excel at
execution. This course will provide you with concepts, frameworks, and tools to help you gain that "execution
Consider the collapse of companies such as Tyco, Global Crossing, WorldCom, and Enron. Part of the reason for
their demise was the lapse in controls. CEO and top management compensation in these companies was so
heavily tied to stock options which motivated them to manipulate financials to buoy the short-term stock price.
Consider world-class companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, 3M Corporation, Lincoln Electric and Nucor
Corporation. Their long-term success is not just because they have developed good strategies, but, more
importantly, they have designed systems and processes that energize their employees to execute those strategies
effectively. We will do case studies on J&J, 3M, Lincoln Electric and Nucor to drive home the power of these
companies' implementation capabilities.
Most of you will soon be in positions where you will be directly responsible for strategy implementation. You will
either have to manage others within a certain management control system or you will be the "sufferer" of such a
system! Either way, the materials covered in this course would be highly relevant to your immediate job
situations, no matter what career tracks you might choose.
The course is particularly appropriate for any prospective general manager of established or entrepreneurial
ventures, as well as for those contemplating careers in management consultancy and brand management. The
perspective of the course is that of a general manager who is charged with formulating and implementing
strategies. This course is not "technical" in nature, even though some calculations are involved. However, the
main prerequisite to successfully complete this course is to be able to, and willing to, think.
The most important requirements for this course are a thorough preparation and analysis of the assigned case
and reading materials and active participation in the classroom. The course is built almost exclusively around the
case method. The cases in this course raise issues that are evergreen--i.e., these issues were relevant 30 years
benefit from the cases, it is essential that you mentally "get inside" the case situation. Do not approach a case as
you would a book chapter or magazine article. You are a participant, not an observer. If a case centers on a
decision that needs to be made, put yourself in the shoes of the decision maker. Feel the frustration he or she
feels with respect to data limitations. Feel the pressures he or she feels with respect to difficult tradeoffs, limited
resources, political conflicts, etc. Once in class, share your ideas with others as we work together to resolve the
The cases included in this course represent broad organizational situations and encompass many facets of a
company's control systems. In some instances, the case may represent a good system and you are expected to
learn what makes the system work well. Other cases may present a system that has failed and the purpose here
is to learn from the failures. Cases seldom present examples of absolutely perfect or totally flawed systems.
There are always some weaknesses in the best control systems. However, the evaluation of these weaknesses is
always relative to the resources--monetary, manpower, etc.--available to a company. Thus, it may be costly to
remove flaws. Any recommendation for changes when analyzing cases should carefully weigh the organizational
costs involved. In preparing the cases, the following simple rules may be helpful:
* Do not automatically assume a case represents a good or a bad system. Adopt a framework that allows you to evaluate each case on its merits. In fact, the frameworks are among the key takeaways from this course; they can be used to tackle implementation dilemmas you inevitably will encounter in your career.
* Become familiar with the facts of a case. Outline the industry, the competitive context, and the core strategic
tasks at which the firm should excel. You will have to evaluate the control systems of the firm in the context of its
* Support your analysis with facts from the case. Most cases will not contain all the data you might like to have. Nevertheless, you'll be surprised at how easily you can make accurate inferences and useful assumptions if you simply give the current management the benefit of the doubt, that is, if you assume (in the absence of contrary data) they are running the business as you would run it--smartly! If there are contrary data, it's wise to think again. Maybe they're right, and your task is to understand why the company does what it does.
* You are encouraged to test your ideas on others prior to the class meeting. Students tend to find study groups
very beneficial in this course. For the sake of preparation, you should assume every class will begin with you
being called upon to lead off.
My role in the class is to help facilitate discussion. In part, I serve as a recording secretary, clarifier, and intensive
questioner in order to help you present and develop your ideas. My primary role is to manage the class process
and to ensure the class achieves an understanding of the case situation. Clearly, there is no single correct
solution to any of these problems. There are, however, many wrong solutions. There are also solutions that are
inadequately supported with analysis, and there are solutions and analyses that are ineffective because they are
not presented in an orderly and persuasive fashion. We should work together to see to it that each class session
is a lively, stimulating, and intellectually rewarding venture in group learning. We are individually and collectively
responsible for achieving that end.
I do have a specific point of view on the cases, having taught them for 20 years! Of course, I will try to keep an
open mind and listen to what you have to say during class. At the end of each class, I will share with you my
point of view on the case. This is not to imply that my view represents the right answer but just to give you the
benefit of my thinking. Please just treat my concluding remarks as just that, one more point of view on the case;
Clearly, you must participate in class if you are going to share your ideas with others. There is no need to
contribute in every class. Some of the best contributors in the past have been those who participated in only a
few sessions. Their contributions, however, were truly insightful and persuasive. The issue is one of quality, not
quantity or frequency.
substantive and provide one or more major insights as well as direction for the class. Arguments, when offered, are well substantiated and persuasively presented. If this person were not a member of the class, the quality of the discussions would be diminished significantly.
provide good insights and sometimes direction for the class. Arguments, when presented, generally are well
substantiated and often are persuasive. If this person were not a member of the class, the quality of the
discussions would be diminished considerably.
substantive and provide generally useful insights but seldom offer a major new direction for discussion.
Arguments, which are presented sometimes, are fairly well substantiated and sometimes persuasive. If this
person were not a member of the class, the quality of the discussions would be diminished somewhat.
substantive; provide few, if any, insights; and never offer a constructive direction for the class. Integrative
comments and effective arguments are absent. Class contributions are, at best, "cherry-picking" efforts, making
isolated, obvious, or confusing points. If this person were not a member of the class, valuable airtime would be
with class meetings.
2. Classes will begin and end on time. I appreciate your presence in the classroom before the class starts.
3. Please bring your name cards to class.
4. Each class will start with a "cold" call. Please refer to the daily schedule for the structure of cold calls. If you
5. With the possible exception of the "wrap-up" period at the end of each class, note taking is unnecessary. My
notes summarizing the key issues raised in each class will be available as a handout. You can pick up the handout
at start of each class.
The exam must reflect individual effort only. Do not consult with other people and do not share your answers while taking the exam. The three-hour exam will be open book and open notes, but you may refer only to your own notes.
In order to implement strategy, management must focus on both financial as well as non-financial performance measures. In the first three sessions, we will focus primarily on the considerations involved in assigning financial responsibility to various organizational subunits. The key concepts we will cover in these sessions include: cost centers, revenue centers, profit centers, investment centers, and transfer pricing. In session four we will focus explicitly on the balanced scorecard, which blends financial measures with non-financial measures, as a tool for strategy execution.
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