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.

Financial Literacy, Financial Decisions, and the Demand for Financial Services

Why is there apparently limited demand for financial services in emerging markets? On the one hand, low-income individuals may not want formal services when informal savings, credit, and insurance markets function reasonably well, and the benefits of formal financial market participation may not exceed the costs. On the other hand, limited financial literacy could be the barrier: If people are not familiar or comfortable with products, they will not demand them. These two views carry significantly different implications for the development of financial markets around the world, and would suggest quite different policy decisions by governments and international organizations seeking to promote "financial deepening." HBS professor Shawn Cole and coauthors found that financial literacy education has no effect on the probability of opening a bank savings account for the full population, although it does significantly increase the probability among those with low initial levels of financial literacy and low levels of education. In contrast, modest financial subsidies significantly increase the share of households that open a bank savings account within the subsequent two months.

Barriers to Household Risk Management: Evidence from India

Insurance markets are growing rapidly in developing countries. Despite the promise of these markets, however, adoption to date has been relatively slow. Yet households often remain exposed to movements in local weather; regional house prices; prices of commodities like rice, heating oil, and gasoline; and local, regional, and national income fluctuations. In many cases, financial contracts simply do not exist to hedge these exposures, and when contracts do exist their use is not widespread. Why don't financial markets develop to help households hedge these risks? Why don't more households participate when formal markets are available? HBS professor Shawn Cole and coauthors attempt to shed light on these questions by studying participation in rural India in a rainfall risk-management product that provides a payoff based on monsoon rainfall. The results suggest that it may take a significant amount of time—and substantial marketing efforts—to increase adoption of risk-management tools at the household level.

Continuously-Liquidating Tontine Succeed where Immediate Annuities Have Floundered

The changeover from defined benefit to defined contributions retirement plans in the United States has created a vast group of individuals that faces (or will face) the difficult problem of using a lump sum of assets to provide consumption for a relatively long but uncertain number of years. Up to this point, however, consumers appear not to have embraced annuitization. HBS professor Julio J. Rotemberg suggests an alternative instrument that, like immediate annuities, provides longevity insurance and postpones income until old age. In the proposed Mutual Inheritance Fund (MIF), a pool is formed by having individuals of a particular age buy shares in a mutual fund. The income from the underlying assets in the mutual fund is reinvested in the fund so that the value of the shares in an individual's name (and possibly also the number of these shares) grows over time. The basic idea behind the MIF is that the shares of pool members who die are liquidated, and the proceeds are then distributed in cash to the remaining members in proportion to the number of mutual fund shares that are currently in their name.

What Does Slower Economic Growth Really Mean?

Online forum OPEN till June 25. Economists predict substantially slower growth rates for the world's economy into the foreseeable future. But is all growth equal? asks HBS professor Jim Heskett. If much recent growth has resulted from real estate and financial bubbles, will slower growth have as profound an impact on our way of life and the corporate business model as some are predicting? What do you think?

Rapid Response: Inside the Retailing Revolution

A simple bar code scan at your local department store today launches a whirlwind of action: data is transmitted about the color, the size, and the style of the item to forecasters and production planners; distributors and suppliers are informed of the demand and the possible need to restock. All in the blink of an electronic eye. It wasn’t always this way, though. HBS Professor Janice Hammond has focused her recent research on the transformation of the apparel and textile industries from the classic, limited model to the new lean inventories and flexible manufacturing capabilities.

Delivering Information Services: A 30-Year Perspective

When the HBS Executive Education course Delivering Information Services (DIS) began nearly three decades ago, the focus was on the management of mainframe computers. HBS Professor Richard L. Nolan discusses how the program and the way it's taught have kept pace with change in the Internet Age.

Whence IT Value?

Spending on information technology on the part of U.S. manufacturers is finally starting to pay off in increased productivity. Why now? Have IT investments, growing steadily since the 1970s, suddenly crossed a magic threshhold? HBS Professor Andrew McAfee believes the answer lies neither in magic nor in the growing power of computers themselves. Productivity gains, he writes in this article from the online journal Exec, may have more to do with the evolution of computing from PC "islands" to integrated networks that bridge distances and bring people together.

Tech Investment the Wise Way

Can elephants dance? Large companies are perceived to be less inclined to invest in new technologies than start-ups. But HBS professor Henry Chesbrough and Professor Emeritus Richard S. Rosenbloom say look to your business model—not the technology itself—to judge investment decisions.

Computer Security is For Managers, Too

Computer security isn’t just an IT headache, say HBS professor Robert D. Austin and co-author Christopher A.R. Darby. Here are eight to-do items for managers to protect their digital assets.

HBS professor Andrew McAfee researches how the Internet affects manufacturing and productivity and how business can team up to get the most out of technology.

Why IT Does Matter

HBS professors F. Warren McFarlan and Richard L. Nolan respond to the much-discussed assertion by Nicholas Carr that company investments in IT are less and less likely to produce competitive advantage.

Don't blame your CRM technology. Be smarter about collecting and using your data, says Jean Ayers in this article from Harvard Management Update.

Building an IT Governance Committee

Boards need to take more accountability for IT, argue professors Richard Nolan and Warren McFarlan. In this excerpt from their recent Harvard Business Review article, the authors detail what an IT governance committee should look like.

What does IT actually contribute to a business? Is IT a commodity like electricity or is it a crucial element of competitive advantage? In a study of over 600 medium-sized global firms to analyze the business benefits that IT can enable, the authors found that IT capability was key to profitable business growth. This was true in both the U.S. product and services sectors as well as in Germany and Brazil.

Information Technology Ecosystem Health and Performance

An IT ecosystem is "the network of organizations that drives the creation and delivery of information technology products and services." To understand the health and well being of the IT industry in the context of an ecosystem, the authors looked at three crucial IT ecosystem metrics: productivity, robustness, and innovation.

Online Match-Making with Virtual Dates

Users of online dating sites often struggle to find love because the sites themselves make it more difficult than it needs to be. To the rescue: Virtual Dates, an online ice-breaker from Jeana Frost of Boston University, Michael Norton of HBS, and Dan Ariely of MIT.

Business Process Replication and Industry Dynamics

Over the past ten years there's been a clear link between IT investment and productivity growth in the U.S. economy. But what impact has IT had on competition? This paper identifies several recent changes in the competitive dynamics of U.S. industries and shows that they are associated with IT intensity; the more IT and industry has, the greater the changes. Using case studies, previous research, and a simple model, the authors offer a theory that explains these patterns in the data. They argue that IT allows the rapid spread of business process innovations, which in turn leads to more turbulent and concentrated industries.

IBM contribution in IT

IBM has contributed more than $1 billion to the development and promotion of the Linux operating system, and other vendors such as Sun are ramping up open source software efforts and investment. Why do information technology vendors that have traditionally sold proprietary software invest millions of dollars in OSS? Where have they chosen to invest, and what are the characteristics of the OSS projects to which they contribute? This study grouped OSS projects into clusters and identified IT vendors' motives in each cluster.

An Application to Online Advertising

It is commonplace for large entities (both advertisers and ad networks) to enter into relationships with numerous small agents such as Web sites, blogs, search syndicators, and other marketing partners. For example, one well-known affiliate network boasts more than a million affiliates promoting offers from the network's hundreds of merchants, and Google contracts with numerous independent Web sites to show Google's "AdSense" ads. Although these advertising agents are often small, they can take advantage of technology to claim payments they have not earned. In practice, the legal system cannot offer meaningful redress to an aggrieved advertiser or ad network. This paper argues that delayed payment offers a more expedient alternative—a sensible stopgap strategy for use when primary enforcement systems prove inadequate.

How Much Obsolescence Can Business and Society Absorb?

This month's question brought out both the poets and the engineers among respondents. The rapid pace of new technology adoption within organizations implies change for management and society, says HBS professor Jim Heskett. How does change affect the open sharing of information? (Forum now closed; next forum begins May 1.)

Gray Markets and Multinational Transfer Pricing

Gray market goods are brand-name products that are initially sold into a designated market but then resold through unofficial channels into a different market. Gray markets can arise when transaction and search costs are low enough to allow products to "leak" from one market segment back into another. Examples of industries with active gray markets include pharmaceuticals, automobiles, and electronics. Understandably, reactions to gray market encroachment are mixed. On the one hand, consumer advocates and governments have applauded the increasing role that gray markets have played in improving competition for domestic goods. On the other hand, multinationals have decried the increasing role of gray markets in the economy, with an estimated $40 billion in cannibalized sales resulting from gray markets in the information technology sector alone. This study investigates the optimal price of a multinational's internal transfers and the consequences of regulations mandating arm's-length transfer pricing.

The IT Leader's Hero Quest

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.