Weekly Recap

The Best of This Week

The week’s must-reads for managing in the digital age, curated by the MIT SMR editors.

How to Sabotage Your Company in 10 Simple Steps

A secret, pre-CIA field manual for sabotaging enemy organizations during WWII identified two ways of undermining an organization: physical damage (think: pulling out wires and destroying equipment) and human obstruction of processes (think: all the dysfunctional habits companies still struggle with today). When he shares the list of sabotaging tactics with executives today, HBS professor Stefan Thomke finds “that their reaction usually starts with laughter (‘I see this in my company.’), followed by a sober recognition that organizations haven’t changed much since 1944.”

Is Your AI Smarter Than an Eighth Grader?

Up until last Wednesday, the answer was probably “no.” In fact, for years, even the most sophisticated AI systems have been unable to match the language and logic skills students are expected to have mastered before entering high school. But last week (just in time for back to school), the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence announced big news about its new system, Aristo — it passed.

You Can’t Afford to Please Everyone

In this interview, Amy Ward at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business discusses why businesses can’t always afford to meet the worthy goal of giving customers what they want quickly. But by aligning resources with customer demand, you can improve operational efficiency.

Learning From Six Sigma’s Great Decline

For Quartz, Oliver Staley traces the rise and fall of the storied management tool — from its dominance in the Jack Welch era of GE to its fall from favor and pop-culture satirization; finding a central theme that “simply following the steps of a process is no longer a guarantee of success, if it ever was.”

Five Guidelines for Managers Navigating Customer Participation

Even though front-line employees are committed to advancing the objectives of the business, they sometimes see themselves as caught between communicating customer feedback and what they think is reasonable. When employees represent the views of customers, management needs to have their backs.

Quote of the Week

“One of the most effective ways for managers to improve employee performance is through real-time coaching, which is easiest to implement when managers are themselves engaged in ‘real work’ alongside their reports.”

— James N. Baron, professor at the Yale School of Management, “Why Performance Reviews Aren’t Working”