Winter 2018 Issue
Volume 59, Issue # 2

Access the full Table of Contents below.
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Special Report: Redesigning Work

A New Approach to Designing Work

It’s possible to organize work in ways that achieve both agility and efficiency – if you know how.

What to Expect From Agile

What happens when a large, established bank decides to adopt agile as a management model?

The Trouble With Homogeneous Teams

Research finds that teams lacking diversity may be more susceptible to making flawed decisions.

The Truth About Hierarchy

Research finds that the right kind of hierarchy can help teams be better innovators and learners.

Download the Collection

“Redesigning Work”

Get a collection of four articles from MIT SMR on how to create more flexible, innovative, and productive work processes and teams. (Registration required.)

Articles included:

A New Approach to Designing Work
By Nelson P. Repenning, Don Kieffer, and James Repenning

What to Expect From Agile
By Julian Birkinshaw

The Truth About Hierarchy
By Bret Sanner and J. Stuart Bunderson

The Trouble with Homogeneous Teams
Evan Apfelbaum, interviewed by Martha E. Mangelsdorf

BONUS: How Automation, AI and the Gig Economy Will Revolutionize Work Design
Sponsor's Viewpoint from Deloitte

Redesigning Work

Deloitte

Free download of this MIT SMR collection is brought to you by Deloitte.

Don’t Get Caught in the Middle

Frontiers |

There was once a time when middlemen were indispensable. Intermediaries facilitated transactions between makers and buyers; they closed the gaps between disconnected entities that required one another for survival; and, within organizations, they interpreted high-level corporate strategy and connected it to front-line execution. But one by one, such intermediaries are being made obsolete by technology.

Features

The Pitfalls of Non-GAAP Metrics

Alternative financial metrics have become increasingly ubiquitous and more detached from reality.

Building Scalable Business Models

Many successful companies today leverage business model scalability to achieve profitable growth.

Columns

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Frontiers

Exploring the Digital Future of Management

When Jobs Become Commodities

It pays to ask yourself whether your job is common and repetitive enough to be done by a machine.

Support for Frontiers is Provided in Part By: Nanorep-LogMeIn-75

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A New Approach to Designing Work

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 29 min 

For years, management thinkers assumed that there were inevitable trade-offs between efficiency and flexibility – and that the right organizational design for each was different. But it’s possible to design an organization’s work in ways that simultaneously offer agility and efficiency – if you know how.

What to Expect From Agile

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 12 min 

What happens when a company whose roots go back over a century — a bank, no less — decides to adopt agile management methods developed in the software industry? Though ING bank in the Netherlands is less than three years into the process — and it’s therefore premature to declare the initiative a success — taking a deep dive into the organization’s early experience with agile is nonetheless instructive.

Winning With Open Process Innovation

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 11 min 

Managers in manufacturing companies often keep process innovation activities tightly under wraps. Some companies have good reasons for keeping process innovations concealed. However, the authors’ research suggests that for most manufacturers, such defensiveness deprives companies of a valuable source of ideas for productivity improvement. Many manufacturers, they argue, can benefit from sharing process innovations rather than keeping them secret.

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Developing Successful Strategic Partnerships With Universities

  • Research Feature
  • Read Time: 25 min 

Collaborations between companies and universities are critical drivers of the innovation economy. As many corporations look to open innovation to augment their internal R&D efforts, universities have become essential partners. However, companies often struggle to establish and run university partnerships effectively.

Leading in a Time of Increased Expectations

  • Interview
  • Read Time: 17 min 

Traditionally, big energy companies focused primarily on power generation, not customer-centricity. But that’s changing — and today’s digitally empowered customers have opinions about everything from where their energy should come from to when their bills should arrive. Lynn Good, CEO of Duke Energy Corp., reflects on guiding her company through this transformation.

What Sets Breakthrough Strategies Apart

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 9 min 

Composing valuable strategies requires seeing the world in new and unique ways. It requires asking novel questions that prompt fresh insight. Even the most sophisticated, deep learning-enhanced computers or algorithms simply cannot generate such an outlook. Innovative strategies depend more on novel, well-reasoned theories than on well-crunched numbers.

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The Fundamental Flaw in AI Implementation

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 5 min 

Many managers are excited about smart machines but are struggling to apply machines’ limited intelligence. Indeed, computers can process data just fine, but to generate competitive advantage from machine learning applications, organizations must upgrade their employees’ skills. Companies will also need to redesign employee accountabilities to empower and motivate them to deploy smart machines when doing so will enhance outcomes.

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When Jobs Become Commodities

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 5 min 

Most of us view our jobs as specialized or somehow differentiated, but the world of business and management increasingly feels otherwise. For many organizations today, the next big driver of job commoditization is automation driven by smart machines. Simply put, if a job is viewed as a commodity, it won’t be long before it’s automated. The key for workers whose jobs have traditionally seemed safe: Highlight the tasks that require a human touch.

Why Some Platforms Are Better Than Others

  • Research Highlight
  • Read Time: 9 min 

Executives often look at the network effects of digital platforms as a key source of competitive advantage — without understanding that platforms need to also leverage other factors at play in the local markets and among preferred customers. Network effects can help, but on their own, they offer very limited competitive value.

Don’t Get Caught in the Middle

  • Blog
  • Read Time: 3 min 

There was once a time when middlemen were indispensable. Intermediaries facilitated transactions between makers and buyers; they closed the gaps between disconnected entities that required one another for survival; and, within organizations, they interpreted high-level corporate strategy and connected it to front-line execution. But one by one, such intermediaries are being made obsolete by technology.