Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 3.5 hours / session, 1 session / day for 5 days

Course Description

An old saying holds that "there are many more good ideas in the world than good ideas implemented." This is a case-based introduction to the fundamentals of effective implementation. Developed with the needs and interests of planners—but also with broad potential application—in mind, this course is a fast-paced, case-driven introduction to developing strategy for organizations and projects, managing operations, recruiting and developing talent, taking calculated risks, measuring results (performance), and leading adaptive change, for example where new mental models and habits are required but also challenging to promote. Our cases are set in the U.S. and the developing world and in multiple work sectors (urban redevelopment, transportation, workforce development, housing, etc.). We will draw on public, private, and nonprofit implementation concepts and experience.

What We Will Not Cover

Much of the material in course 11.337J (Urban Design Policy and Action), on government rules and incentives. Our focus is on an array of approaches to creating change, including the organizational dimensions of making the change happen, not—more narrowly—the implementation of public policy only or of government-adopted urban design ideas. Likewise, we will not cover in depth the important and vast implementation topic of negotiating agreement on courses of action, for which there are module and full semester courses at MIT, Harvard, and other schools nearby. Gaining agreement is often necessary but never sufficient to produce change.

Intensive Workload

In addition to our 3.5 hours of class time per day (including a 20 minute stretch/snack break), native English speakers should expect to spend at least 3-4 hours per day, and non-native speakers more time, preparing well for the next day's discussions.

Who This is For

MIT graduate students, fellows, and alumni in any professional field. While at least 2-3 years of full-time, post-college work experience is suggested, it is not required. Midcareer students are strongly encouraged to enroll. Listeners, including MIT undergrads and non-MIT participants, will be admitted if space is available, which we expect to be the case.

Level, Grading, and Assignments

3 graduate units, graded Pass/Fail. Active class participation and complete attendance will be 40% of your final score. A take-home final exam of straightforward word problems, which will be due 5 days after the class ends, will be 60% of your score. Unexcused late submissions of the exam will be penalized, out of fairness to your colleagues, so be sure to notify me in case of emergency, and request an extension to a specific date and time.


The course emphasizes case-method discussion of core implementation problems, concepts and their application. This is distinct from lecture/Q&A-based learning or experiential learning (such as through role plays or other simulation exercises). In standard case-method learning, the cases are not "case studies" that present answers following from analysis someone else has done (and presented to you on the page). Discussion cases or "teaching cases" present real-world events and decision problems and challenge you, with help from supplementary concept readings and other materials, to do the analysis and consider options for action.

We will do about 9 cases in 5 days, covering a wide range of problems and concepts. So a typical class will cover one case in the first 80 minutes, provide a 20 minute break to snack and chat a bit, and then a second 80 minute case discussion.

Preparation and Participation

Each day's work will require intensive preparation, by you, of about two cases and supplementary reading from classics as well as newer work in the fields of strategy, management, leadership, etc. The material for day one includes brief tips on how to "prepare a case" (how to read a case critically in preparation for class discussion), and you will have study questions for each session to focus you on our main learning objectives for the day.

My expectation is that you will each participate actively in class discussion, which includes responding to my questions, generating your own questions and insights about the material, and responding to each other's ideas as well. Our learning together depends on mutual respect, curiosity, active listening, and critical thinking by all of us. But reviewing and thinking about the material in advance is essential: I expect that anyone in the class would be prepared to start our discussion on any given day, for example, if asked to respond to my first questions about the case.