Donald C. Hambrick
The Pennsylvania State University
Smeal College of Business



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Fall 2018

MGMT 531: Strategy Implementation and Organizational Change

Professor Donald C. Hambrick
Office: 414 Business Building
Phone: 863-0917


The vast majority of new or revised business strategies - no matter how well crafted or ingenious they are - fail in their implementation. In some cases, strategic plans amount to little more than a top executive's declarations or a powerpoint slidedeck. In other cases, they end up as faint replicas of the original ideas. And in the most tragic cases, some perfectly sensible strategies are so badly implemented that they cause outright company damage. Companies rise and fall not according to their strategic brilliance or cleverness, but according to their ability to execute on their strategic intentions.

This course addresses the managerial challenge of strategy implementation, particularly by examining the organizational elements that must be drawn into line to support a strategy, as well as the immense difficulties of changing an organization. As such, the course relies on two overarching frameworks. The first is a model of organizational alignment; the second is a model for managing the change process.

The course will emphasize application and practice, primarily by the use of cases. You will be asked, class after class, to take the position of a senior manager or an advisor to a manager, and develop answers to questions like these: What's the real problem here? How are the elements of the problem interconnected? What should be done? How, specifically, should we go about it?

For MBA Students - Strategy Implementation and Organizational Change will be relevant for a broad array of students, including those hoping to be managers, consultants, investors, and entrepreneurs. Because the course focuses on changing entire organizations (rather than small parts of organizations), we will be primarily taking the point of view of senior managers. However, our frameworks and tools, and the skills you will develop, will be useful to you early in your careers, as you face the need to manage change in your own subunits, as well as the need to comprehend and contribute to firm-wide changes.

For Executive MBA Students - You will also be given the opportunity to directly apply the course material to your own company (or another company of interest to you). In an extension to the Strategic Analysis Project you did for Professor Misangyi's course, you will now do a "Strategy Implementation Project," which will address these questions: Given our company's (or our unit's) strategic intent, what has to be done to fully implement the chosen strategy? How should we go about making it happen? We will discuss the project format and guidelines in class.

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