15.311 | Fall 2003 | Graduate

Organizational Processes


The table below describes each of the 15.311 lectures, explaining the topics and cases covered. Topics for classes in another first-year MBA course, 15.280 Communication for Managers, are also listed because the two classes work in conjunction with one another. Organizational Processes also offers several sessions jointly with the Career Development Office.

For a summary view of this lecture schedule, see the calendar overview.

 15.280 class 1 Sept. 2 Dashman Case; Communication Strategy and Structure
15.311 classes 1-2 Sept. 4 & 5

Introduction to Organizational Processes   
(Double session, 3 hour class)

September 4:   
Cohorts A, B, and E meet 8:30-11:40   
(Session 1: 8:30-10:00; Session 2: 10:10-11:40)

Cohorts C and D meet 1:00-4:00   
(Session 1: 1:00-2:30; Session 2: 2:30-4:00)

September 5:   
Cohort F meets 1:00-4:00   
(Session 1: 1:00-2:30; Session 2: 2:30-4:00)

Case: Cole-Livermore Ltd. INSEAD.

15.280 class 2  Sept. 9 Oral Presentations: Structure, Delivery
15.311 class 3  Sept. 11

Kickoff of OP Team Project

One of the main goals of this class is to give students the skills to observe, diagnose, and guide organizational change. One of the most valuable ways of achieving this end is by having student teams go out and study change initiatives in real organizational settings. In this session, we will introduce a major component of the class, the Organizational Processes Team Project.

Organizations undertake initiatives in order to further their strategic or tactical business goals. Your task is to analyze an initiative that was recently adopted, or is in the process of being adopted in an organization. Each team will identify an initiative, conduct a multi-perspective analysis, and relate it to what else is happening in the organization. The purpose of the assignment is to improve your ability to diagnose and tailor initiatives in ways that work.

NOTE: Written Report of Team Project Due December 9 (15.280 class 12)

15.311/Career Development Office (optional) Sept. 12 Optional Session: Hiring: Theory and Practice 
Special Session by Prof. Roberto Fernandez, in cooperation with the Career Development Office. 
15.280 class 3 Sept. 16 Oral Presentations: Visual Aids; Q&A
15.311 class 4 Sept. 18

Decision-making and Sense-making

In this class, we will discuss the complex psychological issues that arise when humans make decisions. We will review the large body of managerially-relevant material on decision-making and decision biases from cognitive psychology.

Feedback on decision making exercise.

15.311 class 5 Sept. 23

Understanding Ethical Violations, OR, Why Do Smart People Do Dumb Things?

Of late, the business press has been replete with stories of unethical and illegal business dealings. In this session, we seek to gain insight into how it is that seemingly smart people can display such glaring lapses.

Case: Vandivier. “Why Should My Conscience Bother Me?”

15.311 class 6 Sept. 25

Strategic Design Perspective I: Organizational Structure and Processes

The formal structure of the organization plays a critical role in shaping the work that gets done in organizations. There have evolved some general principles that managers tend to follow when designing organizations. While there is no universal “best way” to organize, depending on the purpose, there are better and worse ways to group, link and align organizational units. This Appex case provides an excellent setting in which to examine the tradeoffs one makes when designing formal organizational structures.

Case: Appex Corporation. Harvard Business School, 1992.

15.311 & 15.280 Sept. 26

Team Day

(NOTE: Special times and locations will be announced for this session.)

In this special session, we will spend a day working on the role of teams in organizations. The goals are to review the state of knowledge on the performance advantages and disadvantages of teams, and to check-in on the progress of student teams’ projects.

15.280 class 4 Sept. 30 Writing: Persuasion and Document Design
15.311 class 7 Oct. 2

Strategic Design Perspective II: Incentives and Alignment

This is perhaps the most famous (or infamous) case of incentive structures in the management literature. It makes a sharp argument in favor of some controversial ways of designing compensations systems and motivating employees. The fact that these methods are controversial, however, should not make us dismissive. As we shall see, Lincoln and others have long used such reward systems with some interesting results. Be prepared to take a position on the reward system.

Case: Bjorkman, I. Lincoln Electric in China. INSEAD, 1999.

15.280 class 5 Oct. 3 15.280/Career Development Office Cover Letter/Resume (Required)
15.280 class 6 Oct. 7 15.280/Career Development Office Joint Class (Required)
15.311 class 8 Oct. 9

Political Perspective I: Understanding Power and Authority

A central theme in the political perspective on organizations is that understanding the nature of power, how to get it and how to use it, are essential for any manager to be effective. In order to motivate our discussion of power and authority, we will watch a short film reporting a series of classic experiments on obedience to authority.

Case: Milgram’s Obedience to Authority experiments.

15.280 class 7 Oct. 14 Intercultural Communication
15.311 class 9 Oct. 16

Political Perspective II:  Networks and Power   
Power is critical to getting things done in organizations. In this session, we will focus on the role that networks play for organizational actors in “getting things done.”

Case: Managing Xerox’s Multinational Development Center. HBS, 1993.

15.280 class 8 Oct. 28 Writing: Writing Process and Editing; Presenting Data; Interactive Presentation
 15.311 class 10 Oct. 30

Cultural Perspective I: Culture as Control 
Individual Case Analysis Assignment Handed Out – DUE November 6\n   
Today we will begin our discussion of culture and consider what it means for an organizational culture to be strong or weak. We will consider one useful model of organizational culture and see how it helps us better understand the Disney organization. And we will talk about the advantages and disadvantages of strong cultures – such as the one shown on the video for the session – for employees, shareholders and customers.

Case: Van Maanen, J. “The Smile Factory: Work at Disneyland.”

15.311 class 11 Oct. 31

Career Choices

Cohorts B, C and E meet 8:30-10:00   
Cohorts A, D, and F meet 10:20-11:50

In this special session, run jointly with the Career Development Office, we will turn our attention to the examination of careers. As organizations are changing rapidly, so too are the nature of and expectations for our careers. We will discuss the individual impacts of the structural shifts in the kinds of firms we have been studying during the course of the term and consider various strategies for managing your career in today’s organizations.

Case: Loveman, G. The Case of the Part Time Partner. Harvard Business Review, 1990.

15.280 class 9 Nov. 4 Active and Reflective Listening; Group Presentations
15.311 class 12 Nov. 6

Cultural Perspective II:  Culture and Change

Individual Assignment Due (Assigned on October 30)

Hand out Confidential Instructions for Negotiation Assignment (DUE: Nov. 13)

There is near universal agreement that managing change is one of the most difficult, but profoundly important, of management tasks. Cultural issues are often cited as a hindrance to change efforts. In this session, we will explore how understanding organizational culture is a crucial skill for changemakers. The case and the associated readings for this session highlight the tradeoffs that need to be considered when guiding organizational transformations.

Case: Cleveland Twist Drill (A). HBS, 1988.

15.311 class 13 Nov. 13

Integrating the Perspectives I: Organizational Change

Hand In Negotiation Assignment

We continue with our focus on managing organizational change. In this class, we will explore the power of bringing the three perspectives to bear in a case involving complex change processes.

Case: Ancona, Deborah, et al. “The Strategy that Wouldn’t Travel.”

15.280 class 10 Nov. 18 Communication: Media Choice
15.311 class 14 Nov. 20

Integrating the Perspectives II: Leading Change

Leadership is often viewed from the perspective of those at the top of the organization. In this class, we will consider ways in which insights from the three perspectives can help people at any level of the organization produce change.

Case: Ancona, Deborah, et al. “Dynacorp.”

15.311 class 15 Nov. 21

Introduction to Negotiation and Bargaining

Special Session by Prof. Jared Curhan, in cooperation with the Career Development Office

Special session on negotiation theory, with special application to negotiating compensation packages

15.280 class 11 Dec. 2 15.280 Presentations
15.311 class 16 Dec. 4 Wrap Up: Management as a Profession
15.280 class 12 Dec. 9 15.280 Course Wrap-Up

Course Info

Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments