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 Strategic HR Management  posted by  duggu   on 1/2/2008  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Burton, Diane, and Paul Osterman, 15.660 Strategic HR Management, Spring 2003. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare),  (Accessed 11 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Bobsled team competing in Winter Olympics.

Athletes working as a team to compete in the 2002 Winter Olympics. (Image courtesy of U.S. Army Public Affairs.)

Course Highlights

Strategic HR Management features a full set of lecture notes and assignment questions. The final exam for this course is also available in the exams section.

Course Description

This course is about both the design and execution of human resource management strategies. This course has two central themes: (1) How to think systematically and strategically about aspects of managing the organization's human assets, and (2) What really needs to be done to implement these policies and to achieve competitive advantage. It adopts the perspective of a general manager and addresses human resource topics (including reward systems, performance management, high-performance human resource systems, training and development, recruitment, retention, equal employment opportunity laws, work-force diversity, and union-management relationships) from a strategic perspective.

*Some translations represent previous versions of courses.


Course Overview and Objectives
This course is about both the design and execution of human resource management strategies. This course has two central themes: (1) How to think systematically and strategically about aspects of managing the organization's human assets, and (2) What really needs to be done to implement these policies and to achieve competitive advantage.

This course will not get into the technical details of personnel management such as the psychometric aspects of test validation, the specifics of job evaluation methods, the mechanics of interviewing, or the intricacies of employment law. These topics are primarily relevant to those intending to be human resource professionals. Instead, this course adopts the perspective of a general manager and addresses human resource topics from a strategic perspective.

Many managers and organizations recognize that a critical source of competitive advantage often comes not from having the most ingenious product design, the best marketing strategy, or the most state of the art production technology, but rather from having an effective system for obtaining, mobilizing, and managing the organization's human assets. A number of recent developments, including demographic changes in the labor force, the rapid pace of technological change, increased global competition, experiments with new organizational arrangements, and public policy attention to work force issues, are making human resource management topics increasingly important for all managers in organizations. Although many organizations recognize the importance of managing the work force effectively and even "know" what approaches are effective, it is remarkable how often firms and managers fail to implement these approaches.

This course is designed to be integrative, drawing upon foundational material to which you have been exposed in core curriculum courses. Our orientation will be both analytical and managerial, focusing on the development of concepts and strategies that can increase your effectiveness in developing policies and practices that general managers can use to enhance the value of the people in their organizations.

To integrate the conceptual and applied material the primary course material will be a series of cases illustrating both successes and failures. You will also be provided with supplementary readings and lectures that will supply concepts and frameworks. Each case will provide an opportunity to use the conceptual material in an analytic way. To help focus your analysis, a set of study questions for each case is included. These can be used to guide your case preparation.

It is also important that we take advantage of the experience of class members. So, where relevant, please feel free to bring your own experiences and illustrations into class discussion. Throughout the course--virtually in every session--we will consider how what we are discussing differs across settings. Students with global experiences are especially encouraged to bring this knowledge into the classroom. The employment relationship in the U.S. is different in many respects from many other countries, so it is important that as managers we appreciate these differences in how human resources might be framed differently in other cultures. If we are to meet our goal of increasing your effectiveness in managing human resources, it is important to explore how, why, and under what circumstances various approaches work. Your previous experience, both positive and negative, is a valuable source of data for this learning.

The course is divided into three sections. The first addresses the implementation of strategy and the importance of aligning human resource practices so that they are internally consistent and produce the skills and behaviors required to make the strategy work. The second section addresses a number of key HR levers available to managers in the development of an effective work system, including investing in people (training and development), participation and involvement (team-based systems), measurement and incentives (compensation), and information sharing. The third section of the course provides a summary and integration, illustrating how firms have succeeded or failed at tapping the potential of their work force.

Course Requirements
Class Participation: 40% of grade
Case Write-ups: 20% of grade
Quiz: 40% of grade

Class Participation

Because this is a case-based class, each student is required to be an active participant in case discussions. Your participation grade will reflect my assessment of your total contribution to the learning environment. This includes not only the frequency of your contributions in class, but also their quality. Quality, includes, among other things: (1) sound, rigorous, and insightful diagnosis (e.g. sharpening of key issues, depth and relevance of analysis); (2) ability to draw on course materials and your own experience productively; (3) ability to advance or sharpen in-class discussion and debate, willingness to take risky or unpopular points of view, use of logic, precision, and evidence in making arguments; (4) professionalism of your conduct (attendance, punctuality, preparedness, and showing respect to all section members and their class contributions). Unexcused absences and lack of preparation will be counted heavily against your grade.

Case Write-ups

Students are required to submit two written case analyses (no more than 5 pages long):

  • Slade Plating Department
  • Safelight Autoglass

Case write-ups are due at the beginning of class - prior to the in-class discussion. Late write-ups will not be accepted.

The write-ups will be evaluated according to how well you have demonstrated your mastery of the course material. This includes the application of appropriate conceptual materials; the effective use of evidence to develop your arguments; explicit assumptions and clear logical inferences; and a coherent and integrated analysis and assessment. The written work must be clear and well-organized. In addition, case write-ups should be typed, with reasonable fonts and margins.


On the final day of class you will have an opportunity to demonstrate your mastery of the course material through an in-class quiz. The quiz format will be short essays about topics that we have covered in the course.



  LEC #       TOPICS       CASES     READINGS
  1       The Strategic Importance of HR      

O'Reilly III, Charles A. "Southwest Airlines: Using Human Resources for Competitive Advantage (A)." Stanford Case No. HR-1A. Stanford, CA: Stanford Graduate School of Business, 1995.

    Pfeffer, Jeffrey. The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1998, chapters 1 and 2.
  2       Strategic Execution and Economic Value: Internal and External Alignment      

Heckscher, Charles C. and Philip Holland. "Portman Hotel Co." Harvard Case No. 9-489-104. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 1989.

  3       Work Systems      

O'Reilly III, Charles A. "New United Motors Manufacturing, Inc (NUMMI)." Stanford, CA: Stanford Case No. HR-11. Stanford Graduate School of Business, 1998.

    Optional Reading:

Rubinstein, Saul R., and Thomas A. Kochan. Learning from Saturn: Possibilities for Corporate Governance and Employee Relations. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University/ILR Press, 2001.
  4       The Role of the HR Function             Ulrich, Dave. Human Resource Champions: The Next Agenda for Adding Value and Delivering Results. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1998, pp. 23-31 and 231-254.
  5       Self-Managed Teams      

Hill, Linda A. "Slade Plating Department." Harvard Business Case No. 9-496-018. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 1995.

    Wageman, Ruth. "Critical Success Factors for Creating Superb Self-Managing Teams." Organizational Dynamics. Summer 1997, pp. 49-61.
  6       Participation and Involvement       Film: Breakdown at Eastern Airlines     Pfeffer, Jeffrey. "Can You Manage With Unions." Chap. 8 in The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First. 2000, pp. 225-251.
  7       Training and Development      

Heskett, James L. "ServiceMaster Industries, Inc." Harvard Business Case No. 9-388-064. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 1988.

  8       Culture      

Burton, M. Diane, Thomas J. DeLong and Katherine Lawrence. "Morgan Stanley: Becoming a 'One-Firm Firm'." Harvard Business Case No. 9-400-043. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 2000.

    Kaplan, R. S., and D. P. Norton. "Linking the Balanced Scorecard to Strategy." California Management Review 39, no.1, Fall 1996.
  9       Performance Appraisal      

Burton, M. Diane. "The Firmwide 360-degree Performance Evaluation Process at Morgan Stanley." Harvard Business Case No. 9-498-053. Boston, MA:Harvard Business School, 1998.

Burton, M. Diane. "Rob Parson at Morgan Stanley." Harvard Business Case No. 9-498-054. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 1998.

  10       Diversity       The Case of the Part-time Partner.     Thomas, David A., and Robin J. Ely. "Making Differences Matter: A New Paradigm for Managing Diversity." Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review, September-October 1996, pp. 80-90.
  11       Information Sharing      

Hanson, Kirk O. and David Bollier. "Jack Stack" (A) and (B). Harvard Business Case No. 9-993-009 and 9-993-010. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 1993.

    Case, John. "Opening the Books." Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review, March-April 1997, pp. 118-127. Reprint No. 97201.
  12       Benefits       The SAS Institute: A Different Approach to Incentives and People Management Practices in the Software Industry, Stanford Case #HR-6.     Pfeffer, Jeffrey. "Six Dangerous Myths About Pay." Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review, May-June 1998, pp. 109-119.
  13       Compensation Systems      

Baker, George P. and Karin B. Monsler. "Visionary Design Systems: Are Incentives Enough?" Harvard Business Case No. 9-495-011. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 1995.

  14       Pay for Performance      

Hall, Brian, Carleen Madigan and Edward Lazear. "Performance Pay at Safelite Auto Glass (A)." Harvard Business Case No. 9-800-291. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 2001.

  15       Non-Profit Management       The John Snow Institute.      
  16       Managing Service Workers      

DeLong, Thomas J. and Vineeta Vijayaraghavan. "Harrah's Entertainment, Inc.: Rewarding Our People." Harvard Business Case No. 9-403-008. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 2003.

  17       Alignment and Motivation       Nordstrom Department Store. Center for Human Resources, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.    

Simons, Robert. "Control in an Age of Empowerment." Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review, March 1995. Reprint No. 95211.

  18       Review & Wrap-up              
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