Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sharpening Your Skills: Managing Teams

The ability to lead teams is fast becoming a critical skill for all managers in the 21st century. Here are four HBS Working Knowledge stories from the archives that address everything from how teams learn to turning individual performers into team players.

Think you could be CIO? Jim Barton is a savvy manager but an IT newbie when he's promoted into the hot seat as chief information officer in The Adventures of an IT Leader, a novel by HBS professors Robert D. Austin and Richard L. Nolan and coauthor Shannon O'Donnell. Can Barton navigate his strange new world quickly enough? Q&A with the authors, and book excerpt.

Innovation Communication in Multicultural Networks: Deficits in Inter-cultural Capability and Affect-based Trust as Barriers to New Idea Sharing

What makes sharing new ideas across cultural lines so difficult? Given that disclosing new ideas makes one person vulnerable to the other, innovation communication requires trust. The literature on workplace relationships distinguishes affect-based trust—feelings of socio-emotional bond with the other—and cognition-based trust—judgments of the other's reliability and competence. Recent organizational psychology research on capabilities needed to work across cultures has also identified affect-relevant strengths such as confidence and nonverbal communication. HBS professor Roy Y.J. Chua and Columbia Business School professor Michael W. Morris survey a sample of business executives with diverse professional networks, assessing their inter-cultural capability and measuring both kinds of trust as well as idea sharing in their working relationships.

The Investment Strategies of Sovereign Wealth Funds

The role of sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) in the global financial system has been increasingly recognized in recent years, and many reports suggest that SWFs are often employed to further the geopolitical and strategic economic interests of their governments. The resources controlled by these funds—estimated to be $3.5 trillion in 2008—have grown sharply over the past decade. Projections, while inherently tentative due to the uncertainties about the future path of economic growth and commodity prices, suggest that they will be increasingly important actors in the years to come. Despite this significant and growing role, financial economists have devoted remarkably little attention to these funds. The lack of scrutiny must be largely attributed to the deliberately low profile adopted by many SWFs, which makes systematic analysis challenging. Bernstein, Lerner, and Schoar analyze how SWFs vary in their investment styles and performance across various geographies and governance structures. Taken as a whole, results suggest that high levels of home investments by SWFs, particularly those with the active involvement of political leaders, are associated with trend chasing and worse performance.

Corporate Misgovernance at the World Bank

This paper examines the politics of corporate governance at the world's largest appropriations committee, the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors, and exposes a weakness in the design of the World Bank's decision-making structure. Any large public organization faces a challenge of representation and management. Since all decisions cannot be made by all members, founders often grant a more nimble body with decision-making powers. But representatives on the decision-making body may face a temptation to govern in the interests of their own wallet or narrow constituency rather than in the interests of the larger body. In 2008, the Bank's two primary component institutions—the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA)—committed nearly $25 billion in loans and grants through some 300 development projects around the globe. Where did it go? By exploring the political dynamics and corporate governance of an international appropriations committee, we not only learn about international organizations but also the nature of the international system itself.

Misgovernance at the World Bank

Board members may be inclined to advance their own interests at voting time. This appears true for the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors, too. The problem? Many countries are being shut out of development funding. New research by Harvard Law School student Ashwin Kaja and HBS professor Eric Werker tells why misgovernance at the World Bank should be corrected.

International Regulatory Variation and Pharmaceutical Industry Location

The era of paternalistic medicine has passed, but the notion that patients can act as consumers and make appropriate decisions concerning medical treatment poses countervailing risks of its own. A better accommodation among key players needs to be struck to foster the safe use of pharmaceuticals, according to HBS professor Arthur Daemmrich. The "pharmacy to the world," once located at the intersection of Germany, Switzerland, and France, today is found in the United States. Studies of the industry have attributed this sustained competitive advantage to a variety of factors, including U.S. intellectual property policies, funding for biomedical research through the National Institutes of Health, the absence of government controls on drug prices, and the availability of venture capital and other factors that fostered the growth of the biotechnology industry. The data and analysis presented in this working paper, however speculative, are an initial step toward deepening the understanding of interrelationships between government regulation, patients' mobilization both as regulators and as consumers, and the functioning of the pharmaceutical industry.

Female Empowerment: Impact of a Commitment Savings Product in the Philippines

Does access to personal savings increase female decision-making power in the household? The answer could be important for policymakers looking to increase female empowerment. HBS professor Nava Ashraf and colleagues developed a commitment savings product called a SEED (Save, Earn, Enjoy Deposits) account with a small, rural bank in the Philippines. The SEED account requires that clients commit not to withdraw funds that are in the account until they reach a goal date or amount, but it does not explicitly commit the client to continue depositing funds after opening the account. This working paper examines the impact of the commitment savings product on both self-reported decision-making processes within the household and the subsequent household allocation of resources.