Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


Construction, real estate, and architecture together make up the largest industry in the world. The industry is also extremely fragmented, risky, confrontational, and information intensive. There are strategic opportunities - and strategic pitfalls.

It is assumed that students will soon become principals in existing industry firms, or in their own companies. Effective principals need a toolkit of strategic concepts to use in exploring and charting the direction of their firms, and in explaining and implementing that direction.

This course provides an overview of key concepts in strategic management specific to this industry. Topics include supply chain analysis, market segmentation, vertical integration, competitive advantage, and industry transformation. This course will be of interest to students seeking more understanding of the business dynamics of real estate and construction; seeking to provide value in firms which they may join; or seeking to build a foundation for their own entrepreneurial pursuits.


The case method is used extensively, where students read case studies of business situations, supplemented by academic and business readings, and analyze and discuss the choices and issues with the class.


One problem set and two 5-page papers on assigned cases. There is no final exam. Contribution to class discussions is a major factor in grading.


Porter, Michael E. Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance. New York: The Free Press, 1985. ISBN: 0-02-925090-0.


The course is taught on a case study basis, relying also on texts and current articles. The class meets weekly on Mondays. Grading is based on class participation and on papers and problem sets, with no final exam. There are no prerequisite courses.

Class Participation 40%
Paper #1 20%
Paper #2 30%
Problem Set #1 10%

Guidelines for Papers

  1. Papers are due at the beginning of class on the days indicated in the course outline.
  2. Papers may not exceed the indicated length including text and exhibits. Typed, double spaced.
  3. Charts and exhibits using the models are strongly encouraged.
  4. Charts can be drawn by hand.
  5. Papers will be graded on the quality of your analysis of the case situation.

Guidelines for Class Participation

  1. Prepare the material and come to class ready to talk about the strategic issues which you see.
  2. Consider the discussion questions which are provided in the text or in advance.
  3. We learn from each other; active participation is encouraged.
  4. Any question or comment is acceptable in this low-risk learning environment.
  5. Comments which advance the discussion or provide new insights are encouraged.
  6. You may challenge the instructor all you want, with no penalty.


John D. Macomber is CEO of BuildingVision, Inc., a consulting and investing firm focusing on the future of the construction industry. He is a nationally recognized thought leader on information technology and industry change in construction. The Chairman and former CEO of the George B. H. Macomber Company, a large regional general contractor, Mr. Macomber has also led organizations in information services, equipment rental, and real estate. He has been teaching this course and its predecessors at MIT since 1988.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2003
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments