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Yearly Archives: 2014

The U.S. Postal Service goes green

The prevailing misconception toward the green-oriented world is that sustainable practices are something of an ideological luxury. Organizations are quickly coming to realize, however, just how wayward that myth is. The U.S. BrennanPostal Service, for example, saved $52+ million in 2012 alone with green initiatives. CEO of the USPS, Megan Brennan, SF ’03, says that the economic success of those efforts illustrates that sustainability can be as much a financial boon as an environmental benefit when tackled strategically.

With a 25% decline in mail volume over the last decade or so, the USPS has seen a severe cut in revenue. Even the federal government has gone over to e-commerce. To make up the shortfall, the postal service has been aggressive at cutting costs—and many of those savings have been driven by comprehensive facility energy projects.

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Disruptive change in healthcare delivery

Craig Bunnell, SF ’08, Chief Medical Officer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has been negotiating the steep hills and deep valleys of government-mandated healthcare since Massachusetts became the first state to institute health insurance reform in 2006. As healthcare providers now fear about the Affordable Care Act, the revamped system and its subsequent amendments in 2008, 2010, and 2012, disrupted the status quo, forcing organizations and individuals to rethink their positions in the marketplace.

Craig Bunnell, Dana Farber CMO and Sloan Fellow AlumAlthough Bunnell acknowledges that new health insurance realities have posed prodigious difficulties, he’s not interested in rolling back time. “Change is difficult,” Bunnell says, “but necessary. We have an ethical and economic imperative to repair this nation’s healthcare system. Yes, we felt the disruption of the Massachusetts healthcare law, but we also saw the impact. After the legislation was introduced, that percentage of uninsured in Massachusetts dropped to one to two percent—the percentage of uninsured across the rest of the country is somewhere around 14 %.” [The federal percentage has been steadily dropping under the new healthcare law.]

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Dealing in dollars

The globally diverse and sometimes emotional response to the U.S. dollar—love, hate, begrudging respect—can make it difficult to know where the currency really stands.

But Simon Johnson, Ronald A. Kurtz (1954) Professor of Entrepreneurship and Professor of Global Economics and Management at MIT Sloan, says the position of the dollar is something every business leader should be watching. “If the potential exists for a change in the dollar’s standing as the world’s dominant currency, you can gain a huge advantage if you understand when that shift will come and what factors will drive it.”

In White House Burning, Johnson and coauthor James Kwak trace the dollar’s current position back to the 1944 United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods, where the international monetary system was rebuilt around the dollar. The decision proved widely beneficial. For the next three decades, fixing exchange rates in terms of dollars discouraged trade wars based on currency devaluation, promoted global economic stability, and facilitated rapid expansion in global trade.

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System Dynamics: Rethinking the world one system at a time

You’re on the phone with a service provider waiting to complete a simple transaction, but you spend long minutes on hold between micro conversations with people who seem at a loss to help. You’re in a continuous loop of frustration and inaction, and you know there must be a better way.

No doubt there is. And one way of discovering it is through system dynamics (SD)—the analysis and redesign of any interdependent social, managerial, economic, or ecological system. System dynamics was a mid-century invention, the brainchild of MIT Sloan Professor Emeritus of Management Jay Forrester during the School’s earliest days, and the concept has gained legions of adherents over the decades.

System Dynamics at MIT Sloan
Nelson Repenning“When it comes to system dynamics,” says Professor of Management Science and Organization Studies Nelson Repenning, “MIT Sloan is both the birthplace and the current center of expertise. The toolset was invented here, and I think it’s fair to say that we continue to offer a depth, rigor, and variety of applications you can’t find anywhere else.”

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Conquering pandemics through global collaboration

Pandemics have afflicted the planet since ancient times—the 400-BC Plague of Athens, for example. (Medical anthropologists now believe it was probably a form of typhoid fever.) But today, the ease, frequency, and volume of travel across borders give pandemics a greater range of proliferation—the spread of HIV being a case in point.

Monique Mansoura, SF ’12, director of policy and development for the Medical Countermeasures (MCM) franchise at pharma giant Novartis, helped build a multibillion-dollar program designed to prepare the world for pandemics. A public-private partnership between the U.S. government and Novartis, MCM was launched in 2001 after the 9/11 and anthrax attacks.

Headquartered near Kendall Square, the organization spearheaded national health security strategy and policy for programs that develop drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics in response to global health threats like influenza pandemics, chemical warfare, and radiation exposure from events like the Fukushima nuclear accident.

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You, too, can invent a new drug…but try getting it off the runway.

Pierre Azoulay 004Today’s global marketplace is complex, fickle, and volatile. If you’re an entrepreneur or a venture capitalist, it’s tough to know where to invest. Biotech multiplies that uncertainty by a factor of 10. As political, economic, and technological forces shift, so does the biotech marketplace. And yet, cures for the diseases that plague society rely on bold visionaries who are prepared to take that risk. What is the best way to get a biotech innovation into the lab and out into the world?

MIT Sloan Associate Professor Pierre Azoulay likens drug development to bringing a new jumbo jet to the runway. “The two processes are similar. It takes a decade and billions of dollars to get each product to market. The science, the testing, and the materials have to be meticulous to gain the respect of investors and regulators.” However, for many biotech entrepreneurs, Azoulay notes, years of crossing t’s and dotting i’s is not as exciting as the original scientific impulse and ultimately wears down many a budding pioneer. As does the sobering fact that the jumbo jet has a better chance of making it to market than the medical treatment. A recent article in Forbes noted that 95% of the experimental medicines studied in humans fail to be both effective and safe.

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“A very different kind of learning laboratory”

That’s how one alumnus described the MIT Sloan Fellows Program. And it is a laboratory, one devoted to the advancement of leadership, innovation, and global perspective. This one-year MBA program is designed for executives of exceptional promise who are about to take on the most challenging roles of their careers.

In this last of three introductory posts about the MIT Sloan Fellows Program, we’ll look at what sets the program apart—three powerful, interdependent pillars.

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Who needs typical?

A typical Sloan Fellows alumnus? You’d be hard-pressed to find one. MIT Sloan Fellows have launched startups that mushroomed into multinationals, forestalled unprecedented environmental crises, and brought mega-companies back from near-death experiences. They are from Paris, Singapore, Sao Paulo. They have backgrounds in medicine, mechanical engineering, international law. A typical Sloan Fellow? Meet three program alumni, and see if you find any common denominators.

Alan Mullaly, SF ’82
United States
CEO, Ford Motor Company (retired July 1, 2014)

An aeronautical engineer, Alan Mullaly entered Boeing in 1969 straight out of the University of Kansas, rose through the ranks, and was made president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes in 2001. A mere five years later, he was named “Person of the Year” by Aviation Week for the quality of his leadership and was soon wooed to the helm of Ford Motor Company. One Forbes columnist called him a “visionary in chief” who turned Ford around by focusing its culture on innovation. Another Forbes writer said that Mulally’s “innovation track record should be the envy of every executive today” and that his “turnaround of Ford will likely be studied by business students for years to come.”

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Inventing a laboratory for leadership

The idea of a leadership program for executives of exceptional promise was so revolutionary in 1938 that all five talented managers chosen to be MIT Sloan Fellows were featured in The New York Times. The program, which actually was created seven years earlier, has stayed on the front-facing edge of management for three quarters of a century, acquiring a deep archive of wisdom—wisdom distributed across generations of alumni and faculty who have helped to rethink the way we work and live.

We’ve launched this blog as a forum for sharing that knowledge. We’ll reach across industries and geographies and collect late-breaking bulletins from alumni and faculty on the frontiers of management. You’ll find out how Sloan Fellows alumni and faculty are changing the way we approach cancer treatment, using system dynamics to thwart poverty, or rethinking the electric car.

We’ll kick off with a few posts about the program itself, so that you’ll have a deeper understanding of the community that is generating this knowledge. The program’s roots actually reach further back than those New York Times headlines. The story—and the program itself—began in 1931, as the world struggled to emerge from the Great Depression. General Motors was not just the largest corporation in the U.S., it was the largest company on Earth—in no small part because GM President Alfred P. Sloan (MIT Class of 1895) was behind the wheel. Audacious and visionary, his mid-century chronicle My Years with General Motors is still considered a seminal text in modern management education.

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