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Managing High Growth Organizations

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Managing High Growth Organizations

Submitted by: Ranjay Gulati), Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University 


Course Overview and Objectives

This course is concerned with building high performance systems to deal with a critical problem facing organizations worldwide-- how to be more competitive in a global marketplace.  It focuses on organizational level concepts. This course reflects a dual focus on practice and theory.  The requirements for this course will combine substantial reading, analysis, and assignments with opportunities to apply basic concepts and analytic approaches to a series of actual businesses and other organizations.  The course focuses on problem diagnosis and problem solving around the major challenge managers face – building a high performance organization. 


The course will be strongly grounded in the current dynamic market context and once the basic organizational concepts have been introduced will turn to select key topics that are relevant for leaders today.  The impact of new information technologies will also be featured in the course and we will consider the strategic and organizational implications of some of these technologies. This course is designed to get past general conversations on creating a business for dynamic markets.   Instead, we will discuss in concrete terms how to create strategy, structures and processes for organizations that operate in dynamic markets. In light of some of these changes we will also address the larger challenges of building entrepreneurial market driven organizations. The perspective is integrative, and combines theory and insights from strategy, technology, organization, marketing and entrepreneurship.  The course will focus on providing a set of tools and guidelines for developing and executing a strategy, organizing, and leading a successful business in a dynamic market setting.


Course Overview and Objectives  

The course will combine a mix of cases, lecture/discussion, and an individual project.  Your basic objective is to develop your own understanding and management skills.  My primary objective is to stimulate this process.  Specifically, the course will attempt to help you develop your knowledge and skills in the application of advanced frameworks, concepts, and methods for making strategic choices at the business level.  At the end of the course, you should have a working knowledge of the approaches that leaders use to resolve strategic and organizational issues allowing them to be more effective in dynamic markets.


Course Assumptions  

  1. Today’s competitive environment is fundamentally different.  It is more complex and more challenging.  Technology is expanding organizations ability to achieve customer intimacy, product leadership and operational excellence while globalization has intensified competition. Dealing with these challenges is a key organizational imperative of the future.
  2. Leaders in organizations have typically seen technology as a panacea in creating a market focused organization rather than a strategic tool. However important and relevant technology may be, organizational issues are at the crux of any successful organizational change.
  3. Leaders are more inclined to ask quantifiable questions than to seek out answers to more fuzzy, complex questions that reveal real strategic issues confronting the organization. The fact that you can't quickly quantify a question may well indicate that you are now asking questions that are truly important, non-trivial and unique. 
  4. Key task for a leader is to learn to diagnose strategic issues confronting the organization and to challenge underlying assumptions on which the strategy, structure and processes were developed. 
  5. A leader needs to have an understanding of theories to give him or her the conceptual ability to understand complex and ambiguous situations.  With this understanding the leader can develop and implement effective strategic solutions to organizational problems. 


Purpose of Readings 

To provide an overview of ideas, theories, and research directed to the understanding of a multifaceted change effort in an organization within the specific context of building an effective organization operating in dynamic market settings. 


Purpose of Cases 

To provide an opportunity to develop analytic and problem-solving skills in order to be able to better lead interpersonal, group and organization phenomena. 

To provide an opportunity to apply one's developing knowledge of strategy, structure and processes in “real” situations.  


Overview of Course – (NOTE: each module is 2 sessions)


Module 1: Introduction to the Course— Strategic Alignment and Organizational Design



a) “Dinosaurs”, Fortune, 5/3/93 

b) “Note on Organization Structure,” HBS Note, pp 1-11.

c) “CEOs Agenda for Growth,” HBR, 2004, Intro by Ranjay Gulati


Jones Lang LaSalle (Kellogg Case, 2002)


Module 2: Managing Separation and Integration 



a) “Get the Right Mix of Bricks and Clicks,” Ranjay Gulati and Jason Garino. HBR, May-June 2000.

b) “Building the Information-Age Organization: Structure, Control and Information Technologies,” by Cash, Eccles, Nohria, and Nolan.  


Tribune Media Net (Ranjay Gulati, Kellogg Case, 2002)


Module 3: Bringing the customer into the organization  



a) “Building a Customer-centric Company,”  by James Lardner. Business 2.0 July 10, 2001, p.55-59.

b) “Customer-izing the IRS”, by Charles O Rossotti. Strategy & Business, Special Report. 


Target: Shifting a Retail Paradigm (Ranjay Gulati, Kellogg Case, 2002)


Module 4: Organizing Around Markets: From Products to Solutions 



a) “Making Solutions the Answer”.  By Nathaniel Foote, Jay Galbraith, Quentin Hope and Danny Miller. McKinsey Quarterly 2001 Number 3. pp. 84-93.

b) Chapter 2 “Run Your Business for Your Customers” p.15-35 from The Agenda by Michael Hammer. Crown Business, 2001. 


GE Medical Systems (Ranjay Gulati, Kellogg Case, 2002)


Module 5: Managing Transformation Efforts



a) “The Barista Principle: Starbucks and the Rise of Relational Capital” by Ranjay Gulati, Sarah Huffman and Gary Neilson. Strategy + Business, issue 28, Third Quarter 2002.

b) “From Solutions to Symbiosis: Blending with Your Customers” By Deven Sharma, Chuck Lucier, and Richard Molloy. Strategy and Business, Second Quarter 2002. 


Cisco Systems (Ranjay Gulati, Kellogg Case, 2002) 





Jones Lang Lasalle Questions: 

  1. What are some of the most pressing strategic challenges in the real estate management industry?  How is Jones Lang LaSalle positioned in this industry?
  2. What are some options for Jones Lang LaSalle to differentiate themselves from their competitors? 
  3. What do you see is the key strategic rationale for the creation of the Corporate Solutions Organization? Does the creation of Corporate Solutions solve Jones Lang LaSalle’s organizational structure problems?  What problems might remain?  
  4. What alternatives to the creation of Corporate Solutions can you envision?  

The account manager position adds complexity to Jones Lang LaSalle’s matrixed organization.  What role should the account managers play in the new organization? If you were Peter Barge, whom would you choose to staff account manager positions? Should account management be a cost center or profit center?


Tribune Media Net Questions:

  1. What are some of the major changes impacting the media industry today? What is the rationale behind some of the consolidation that is happening in this industry?
  2. What does becoming customer focused mean in the media industry? Who are the customers for firms such as Tribune? 
  3. Why did Tribune create Media Net? What are its strategic goals and the value proposition it offers to Tribune customers?
  4. What do you see as some of the biggest challenges that MediaNet is likely to face? 
  5. How close or separate from the parent company would you place Media Net? What are some of the strengths of the parent company that MediaNet needs to leverage? 
  6. How would you organize Tribune Media Net for greatest likelihood of success?


Target Questions:

  1. What are the important changes going on in discount retailing?  Are the key success factors for retailers like Target changing?  What is Target’s positioning in the industry?
  2. What does customer focus mean in the retailing industry? Why is it growing in importance? Why is it viewed as critical by the management at Target?
  3. Target has been aligned on two dimensions—item and location.  Why has this worked in the past?  Why might it need to change?
  4. A first step to becoming customer focused is having customer information.  Target’s visa card is one step in this direction.  What kind of information should they try to collect?  Once Target has all the information it wants, what are some of the strategic initiatives they should undertake with the information? 
  5. How does Target need to reorganize to be able to fully leverage all the information it will be able to collect? Discuss alternative organizational arrangements and the pros and cons of each.
  6. If you had the job of Chief Guest Officer at Target, where would you situate the guest facing activities in Target’s organization?  What kinds of challenges would need to be overcome to make the guest initiative successful?  


GE Medical Systems Questions:

  1. What key events have shaped GEMS industry? How did GEMS respond to these changes? What benefits has this growth provided the company?
  2. Where is GEMS positioned within the industry? How will the expanded service offering change this position? 
  3. Why is GEMS focused on creating service solutions?  How are internal forces shaping this move? What external forces should be considered? 
  4. What potential problems does GEMS face as it expands its scope? What changes should they make to address these issues? 
  5. What structures and processes will need to be changed to allow GEMS to be successful in this endeavor?  


Cisco Questions:

  1. What was the historical basis for competition in Cisco’s industry? Why has customer focus become critical in recent years in their industry? 
  2. Culture is created by language, symbols, metrics and myths.  What has Cisco done in each of these categories to create a culture focused on the customer?  
  3. How has the heritage of Cisco’s founders (Lerner and Bosack) affected Cisco?  How did Cisco develop and reinforce a customer focused culture?  What has Cisco’s leadership done effectively in this regard?
  4. Cisco restructured in August of 2001.  Was this restructure necessary or simple a reaction to poor performance?  What did Cisco hope to gain from the restructuring?  What can Cisco stop worrying about and what should they start worrying about? Is the new structure likely to make them more or less customer focused?
  5. How does the new organization structure change the role of and the requisite skills needed in the marketing, sales, and R & D organizations?
  6. What will be some of the critical strategic and organizational challenges for John Chambers as he looks forward into the next 5 years?


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