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MIT Sloan Management Review

MIT Sloan Management Review Spring 2015

MIT Sloan Management Review leads the discourse among academic researchers, business executives and other influential thought leaders about advances in management practice, particularly those shaped by technology,  that are transforming how people lead and innovate. MIT SMR disseminates new management research and innovative ideas so that thoughtful executives can capitalize on the opportunities generated by rapid organizational, technological and societal change.

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United States
MIT Sloan Management Review
4 Issues

in this issue

2 min.
expecting the unexpected in project management

If there’s one thing that’s certain about undertaking complex projects, it’s that not everything will work out exactly the way you planned. No matter how strong your project planning and project leadership skills are, unanticipated events are bound to occur. Unforeseen challenges will crop up and schedules may change — as may customer expectations and key project staff. Moreover, research suggests that, when problems do arise in projects, employees aren’t always candid about reporting the issues to senior executives.1 Big projects are full of complexity, risk and human emotions — and their outcomes usually matter a great deal to the organizations and executives involved in them. How can you increase the probability that the major projects you lead or sponsor go well? This issue of MIT Sloan Management Review contains four…

11 min.
revamping your business through digital transformation

Image courtesy of Volvo Car Corp. There is no shortage of stories about companies that create amazing innovations with digital technology. By using mobile devices, social media, analytics and the cloud, savvy companies are transforming the way they do business. Most of the stories feature companies that are small and young or that operate in industries such as music or high tech, where digital technology has already radically shifted the business landscape. For larger companies in more traditional industries, it’s easy to think that digital transformation can wait and that a follower strategy is a safer route than trying to be a pioneer. That kind of thinking, while tempting, is wrong. Although the software, media and technology industries get a disproportionate share of the attention, those industries account for less than 10%…

10 min.
the other talent war: competing through alumni

Much has been said about the fact that companies are constantly fighting a war for talent. Given the importance of skilled human capital for competitive success, it is not surprising that companies dislike losing good people and expend considerable resources on attracting and retaining the best talent. However, if there’s one thing that businesses have learned in the ongoing talent war, it is that they don’t own their human capital — and many employees will eventually move on to new jobs. Companies and managers must embrace this reality and reimagine how best to create and capture value with their former employees, whom many companies now refer to as “alumni.” Businesses increasingly have come to recognize the numerous advantages that their alumni can provide, and some companies, such as the management consulting…

9 min.
when consensus hurts the company

Management is fundamentally about making decisions. In organizations, key decisions are often made by groups — boards, senior management teams, finance committees and so on — rather than by single individuals. Thus, an important role of the person leading a decision-making team is to know how to combine multiple opinions — in effect, to become a decision manager. We have found that how a decision is made can significantly affect the outcome of that decision. Hence, the ideas discussed in this article are applicable to any setting in which one has to “decide how to decide.” For the sake of clarity, we illustrate these ideas in the context of boards of directors. The board of directors is responsible for a company’s most important decisions. In turn, a key responsibility of the…

11 min.
sustaining an analytics advantage

Image courtesy of Wal-Mart. Sustaining a competitive advantage through analytics is a top challenge for today’s leaders. After all, so much of contemporary analytics amounts to what you could call “table stakes.” In other words, a rudimentary level of analytics is now essential for business survival, since most companies are using analytics. One significant corollary of this — the increasingly commonplace use of analytics — is that analytics use is no longer an automatic source of competitive advantage. As an example, consider pricing in the airline industry. There is strong evidence that American Airlines maintained a revenue advantage through its pricing analytics from 1985 to about 1995. Today, however, the analytics of airline pricing has evolved. There are many specialist providers of airline pricing solutions. And almost every airline employs the same…

9 min.
how executive sponsors influence project success

Companies undertake projects to create and improve their products, systems and services. To improve the chances that projects will be successful, it’s common for organizations to choose senior executives with an interest in the outcome to act as the project’s sponsors. Executive sponsors are responsible for lining up the necessary resources at the beginning, managing (or personally performing) certain activities while the project is underway, and ultimately delivering results.1 Since executive sponsors rarely have enough time to manage projects personally, they must rely heavily on project managers. So which activities and behaviors can busy sponsors perform in the course of a project to increase the chances of a project’s success? According to recent studies, this is an important question. The Project Management Institute, a professional association for project management professionals based…