Our Mission: To help leaders and teams change their organizations for the better.The Designing Organizational Change Project develops solutions that spur constructive beliefs and actions (and that squelch destructive ones). We bring together students, faculty, and leaders from a host of for-profit and non-profit organizations — we work with people bent on learning why and how effective change happens despite the inevitable countervailing forces. We uncover, tinker with, and test promising solutions in our classes, studies, and projects with organizations; we do basic and applied research to understand why and when approaches are (and are not) useful; and we capture and communicate these lessons in academic and applied reports, case studies, and change tools.
Do pre mortems improve the help seeking behavior and engagement of new hires? We conduct a randomized field experiment in a large high tech firm, and study whether there are differences amongst those assigned to the following conditions: a) pre mortems of their own success, b) pre mortem of their own failure c) pre mortem of a peer's success, d) pre mortem of a peer's success, e) placebo and f) no treatment.
Many studies analyze the design of existing organizations, but this is the first study of the process of organizational design from strategic conception to operational reality. Professor Valentine is conducting an 18-month ethnographic study of the design and opening of a new multi-million dollar cancer center. By analyzing how the early strategic intentions evolve during different phases (business plan development, space design, staff hiring and training, and actual go-live), this study will generate new insight into why organizations take the forms that they do.
This project brings together diverse and intertwined efforts to identify, develop, and test tools that leaders can use to assess which changes their teams and organizations need and to implement those changes. We are experimenting with tools including calendar audits, meeting audits, the constructive conflict game, the subtraction game, a method for “connecting and cascading” excellence, and success and failure “pre-mortems.” Stay tuned for more detailed descriptions of these and other tools.
How do organizations change the behavior of other organizations? In this project, Zachariah is studying the triangle of influence between corporate organizations, stakeholder organizations, and government organizations. He is analyzing thousands of mergers and acquisitions proposed over the past 15 years that were subject to U.S. antitrust regulations. His initial findings suggest that stakeholder organizations that oppose mergers are more likely to accomplish their goals by using indirect rather than direct influence tactics on government regulators. For example, one effective tactic that stakeholder organizations use is to first persuade voters that a merger is a bad idea, who then pressure their legislators. In turn, the legislators press government regulators to conclude that the proposed merger is “anti-competitive.” The implication is that — as prior research on organizational power and politics suggests — if your goal is to persuade a person or organization to change, but you cannot directly influence them, you may still be able to succeed by identifying and influencing "pivotal" actors that your change target depends upon for resources and legitimacy.
Quarter Offered: Spring, Winter
Organization theory; concepts and functions of management; behavior of the individual, work group, and organization. Emphasis is on cases and related discussion. Enrollment limited; priority to MS&E students.
Quarter Offered: Not offered this year
This practice-based experiential lab course is geared toward MS&E masters students. Students will master the concepts of organizational design, with an emphasis on applying them to modern challenges (technology, growth, globalization, and the modern workforce). Students will also gain mastery of skills necessary for success in today's workplace (working in teams, communicating verbally, presenting project work). Guest speakers from industry will present real-world challenges related to class concepts. Students will complete a quarter-long project designing and managing an actual online organization. Limited to 25. Admission by application.
Quarter Offered: Winter
d.Leadership is a course that teaches the coaching and leadership skills needed to drive good design process in groups. Preference given to students who have taken other Design Group or d.school classes. d.leaders will work on real projects driving design projects within organizations outside campus, and gain real world skills to lead innovation in groups. Take this course if you are inspired by past design classes and want skills to lead design projects beyond Stanford.
Quarter Offered: Spring
d.org will send outstanding, proven design thinkers into organizations to jump-start "organizational R&D" experiments. Students will work directly with senior leaders to prototype ways to reinforce culture through policies, rituals, and behavioral norms.
Quarter Offered: Not offered this year
Gain a deeper understanding of the prototyping and user feedback parts of the design thinking process with a focus on rapid experimentation. Explore prototyping and user feedback that happens in later stages of iteration when design ideas are somewhat gelled, but designers are still uncertain about whether the design will meet the need and evoke the response intended. Introduce and generate creative ways to discover what users will do in the real world with the designs we envision. For seasoned students who thoroughly understand the design thinking process or, more broadly, human-centered design and now want to focus on one later stage aspect of it in more depth. An application process will happen in Fall Quarter. Please contact the d.school for more details.
Quarter Offered: Autumn
The premise of the course is that managers are concerned with how to scale excellence in organizations and that scaling skills are essential for any leadership role. It will be taught with Shantanu Narayen, the CEO of Adobe. The course is designed to appeal to a wide range of audiences: students seeking to build new organizations, or turn around poorly performing organizations, or grow existing organizations to greater heights. We will focus on how to transform the footprint of a firm, and yet, not lose the mindset. Executives also need to think about to spread 'good behaviors' and make them widespread very quickly, and conversely, on how to shrink bad behaviors and make them small very quickly. This course aims to train students into becoming effective leaders of organizational change. We will use a mix of cases written specially for the course, and 'live cases' with guest speakers from the C-Suite.
Abstract: After a delayed shipment of flooring materials impeded Jeff Booth's ability to complete a construction project on schedule, he, along with cofounder Robert Banks, was determined to solve the inefficiency of the heavyweight building supply industry. They founded BuildDirect, an e-commerce company based on a sophisticated technology platform that optimized the shipment of home improvement products. Since its founding in 1999, BuildDirect faced several near-death strategic and economic challenges, including the fallout of 9/11 and the 2008 housing crisis. In spite of these challenges, Booth and Banks never wavered in prioritizing corporate culture over bottom line results. To guide effective employee actions and behaviors, three core values of honesty, integrity, and respect for others had been engrained into the company's DNA. Rituals such as daily "huddles" strengthened employee morale, increased emotional intelligence, and enhanced customer service. Company culture was a major competitive advantage; employees felt empowered to view the home improvement purchase process as an enriching experience, rather than as a mere transaction. In 2014, prospects looked promising. BuildDirect had raised CAD $30 million in Series B funding in a round led by Mohr Davidow Ventures. Headcount doubled in 2013, and was projected to double again in 2014. Customers enjoyed savings of up to 80% of retail prices. Booth and Banks were concerned, however, that continued rapid growth would threaten the culture that was so critical to their success. The cofounders needed to determine how to maintain this winning culture. What aspects of the company's daily operations needed to be changed, and which ones safeguarded at all costs?
Abstract: In 2012, software company Adobe Systems transitioned from using annual performance reviews to a system of ongoing, flexible, “check-ins.” The check-ins involved setting and tracking expectations, ongoing feedback and coaching, and opportunities for growth. The case reviews the deficiencies in the traditional annual review system, the philosophy underlying the change, and its relationship to Adobe’s corporate strategy.
Abstract: The SEALs are the elite special forces of the U.S. Navy. Their selection and training is exceptionally rigorous, with a heavy emphasis on physical condition, stamina, and mental toughness. However, the SEALs have a wide range of missions, many of which are highly sensitive. The case takes place in 2014, as the head of the command charged with SEAL selection and training considers whether some candidates who would make excellent SEALs are being excluded, and some that might be poor in the field are passing. The case examines the selection and training process, and suggests some changes that might be considered.
Abstract: In December 2004, Donald Berwick, MD, president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), challenged U.S. hospitals to reduce unnecessary deaths by 100,000 within the following 18 months. By the end of this 18 month period, over 3,100 hospitals enrolled in the "100,000 Lives Campaign," representing more than 70 percent of U.S. hospital beds. Calculations estimated that approximately 123,000 preventable deaths were avoided in participating hospitals. The case describes the state of quality in the healthcare industry, the history of the IHI, and the IHI's efforts to bring modern quality practices to health care. After seeing pockets of improvement, the IHI launched the 100,000 Lives Campaign in an effort to stimulate large scale change. The campaign approach incorporated lessons from political campaigns and social activism. The operation of the campaign is described. The impact of the campaign on hospitals is also discussed, with particular emphasis on one hospital that used the campaign as the basis for fundamental transformation.
Abstract: In 2007, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals' manufacturing organization faced a number of challenges, requiring that it revolutionize the way its 17,000 people operated. The case describes alternative methods of systemic change considered by Wyeth, the approach they implemented, and how they rolled out the changes across more than 25 sites worldwide. The transformation of one plant is described in some detail. The case also describes setting of objectives and expectations, engagement of leaders and staff, and the use of outside advisors.
Abstract: JetBlue Airways grew rapidly from its founding in 2000, focusing on providing low-cost service to previously underserved cities, while giving passengers a high-quality experience, ("bringing humanity back to air travel"). An ice storm at JFK airport on February 14, 2007 caused 1,195 flights to be cancelled over a six day period, and stranded several planes on the taxiway for many hours. JetBlue, previously viewed as one of the best airlines (if not the best) for customer service, took extensive criticism from the public, press, and Congress. In addition, the disruptions caused by the storm cost the company over $41 million. The 2007 storm highlighted deficiencies in JetBlue's operational infrastructure. Some top-down changes were made, but disruptions caused by thunderstorms in summer 2008 demonstrated that the airline's ability to deal with irregular operations (IROPs) was woefully inadequate. The company instituted a program (IROP Integrity) that utilized the talents of more than 200 employees, from all levels, and all parts of the airline, to address these problems. This was done through process mapping, root cause analysis, and cross-discipline cooperation working on 100 projects to improve both technology and processes. In February 2010, an ice storm far worse than the 2007 event again disrupted operations at JFK. This time, the airline had to cancel far fewer flights, which were mostly done before passengers arrived at the airport, operations the next day, and the cost was a small fraction of the cost of the 2007 disruption. This case describes the IROP Integrity project-its origins, the role of executive sponsors, project leadership and organization, and the processes used to identify and carry out improvement projects. It also describes the legacy of IROP Integrity on the JetBlue organization and culture.
Abstract: The Rapid Equipping Force (REF) was a center of innovation within the U.S. Army. Its origins traced back to 2002, and by 2013 it had developed solutions to thousands of problems faced by soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. It addressed problems as varied as finding Taliban munitions hidden in caves and wells, identifying potential improvised explosive devices (IEDs), reducing the demand for fuel to run electrical generators at remote outposts, providing airborne surveillance, and preventing vehicles from being disabled by flat tires. The REF had always worked closely with troops in the field, but under the directorship of Col. Peter Newell, beginning in July 2010, it had actively collaborated with academia, industry, and other organizations within the military. Newell’s directorship ended in May 2013, at a time when the war in Iraq had ended, and the war in Afghanistan was winding down. Wartime funding, the source of most of REF’s budget, would soon be ending; and overall military budgets were facing significant cuts. Looking into the future, how could the army best utilize the capabilities the REF had developed, and the lessons it had learned? Could the REF’s culture of innovation be scaled in a peacetime army? Could its unique attributes be preserved in a way that could be scaled the next time the army was called upon to go to war? Could it focus its efforts on supporting Special Operations in Africa and other regions of tension?
Ken Wilcox, chief executive officer (CEO) of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), and Greg Becker, SVB’s president and chief operating officer (COO), knew the company was at a critical juncture. They were in a penthouse boardroom at the Park Hyatt Shanghai in November 2010, where they had spent the past week meeting with the SVB board of directors, and the discussions had focused on the bank making a major push into China. Although they had conducted offshore business in China for nearly a decade, Wilcox and Becker wanted to begin banking in Shanghai as an onshore entity. China’s innovation economy was growing rapidly, and they sought to capitalize on the opportunity to work with hundreds of new Chinese clients. At the same time, they wanted to provide existing clients elsewhere in the world the opportunity to conduct business in China.