HBR July/Aug 2018: The leader’s calendar

Harvard Business Review

July/August 2018

Annotated table of contents

1. Adi Ignatius, The CEO vs. the clock

Adi Ignatius, the editor in chief of HBR, introduces the spotlight section in this issue.

Idea watch

2. HBR Team, Finding the right pace for product launches

Research on 1,904 product launches at 73 publicly traded US firms between 1991 and 2015 suggests that average number of launches and their timing impact on stock prices. When product launches are fewer in number, clearly connected with existing portfolios, taking place at regular intervals and reflecting both solid research and marketing investment, they tend to lead to increases in share value. Thus, there seems to be an optimum number and sequence of product launches as companies need time to absorb the lessons from a launch before they are ready for a successful new one.

3. Nicole Torres, Women benefit when they downplay gender

Torres interviews Ashley Martin, an incoming assistant professor at Stanford about her research, with Columbia professor Katherine Phillips, on women’s self-confidence. When attributes such as taking risks, initiative, and willingness to negotiate are considered on their own, as universals, women tend to display them spontaneously and frequently, without self-censorship. When women are primed to think about such attributes and behaviours as male they are also made aware of expectations related to their gender and are primed to behave more meekly.

4. Chip Bergh, the CEO of Levi Strauss, on leading an iconic brand back to growth

Bergh became CEO of Levi Strauss in 2011, having led P&G’s integration of Gillette and run that division for six years. Complacency and a lack of urgency over the previous decade had led to stagnation and a high level of debt at Levi Strauss. Bergh describes how he arrived as this assessment and presents his four-part turnaround strategy. He has built the profitable core around men’s bottoms; encouraged expansion in developing markets and across the product range, including women’s denim and tops; supported Levi Strauss becoming a leading omnichannel retailer, with new emphasis on own department stores and website sales; and achieved operational excellence while paying back half of a 2bn dollars debt portfolio. Other important moves included creating an innovation lab close to headquarters in San Francisco and purchasing naming rights to Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers from the National Football League.

Spotlight section: The leader’s calendar

5. Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria, How CEOs manage time

This article reports the results of extensive research on the diary of 27 CEOs who participated in Harvard Business School’s New CEO Workshop, run by Porter and Nohria since 2006, and attended by just over 300 CEOs so far. Executive assistants coded the activities in the CEOs’ diaries in quarter hour increments over 13 weeks and across several categories, creating a data set covering nearly 60,000 CEO hours. Based on this, Porter and Nohria describe salient patterns: the CEO job is all-consuming; the work tends to be face-to-face; having an agenda is crucial to provide direction and consistency; CEOs rely on direct reports but they also manage using broad integrating mechanisms; they balance scheduled meetings with spontaneity and alone time; and respond to many constituencies, internal and external. There are six dimensions of CEO influence – direct/indirect, internal/external, proactive/reactive, leverage/constraints, tangible/symbolic and power/legitimacy – and the quality of leadership is often the result of working appropriately across all of them.

6. Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria, What do CEOs actually do?

This piece presents in chart form the main empirical findings across several categories: work vs. personal time, where CEOs work, mode of communication, core agenda vs. other activities, content of work, length of meetings, scheduled vs. spontaneous time, meetings vs. alone time, time with key constituencies.

7. Daniel McGinn and Sarah Higgins, One CEO’s approach to managing his calendar, an interview with Spirit AeroSystems CEO Tom Gentile

McGinn and Higgins interview Tom Gentile about the research process, his debriefing with Porter and Nohria once the results were in, his main personal patterns revealed by the research and how these compare with the rest of the CEO population. ‘It felt like a very intensive performance review’, says Gentile, resulting in greater awareness of some of his productive and not so productive habits as well as possibilities for improvement.


8. Kristie Rogers, Do your employees feel respected?

Rogers frames her article around an important distinction, between owed and earned respect, that is respect that we owe everyone unconditionally and more specific forms of respect linked to particular achievements. She uses these concepts to understand and explain the effectiveness of organisational practices at Televerde, a telemarketing company that employs female prison inmates, as she finds that definitions of self, confidence and self-worth can develop and thrive in a supportive, respectful environment. Rogers then distils seven guidelines for building a respectful organisation by encouraging certain behaviours, rather than introducing formal policy changes.

9. Paul Gompers and Silpa Kovvali, The other diversity dividend

To study the impact of diversity on investment performance, Gompers and Kovvali have identified the endowed traits (gender, ethnicity) and acquired traits (schooling, work history) of thousands of VC professionals and the leaders of their funded projects, alongside the effectiveness of investment decisions. In an industry characterised by great homogeneity, where only 8 percent of investors are women and fewer than 1% are black, the tendency is for VCs to invest in projects run by people from similar backgrounds. However, investments where the partners are from different backgrounds tend to perform better. When investors and leaders come from different schools, for instance, there is an increase of 11.5 per cent in performance. The quality of the investment decision becomes apparent not at the outset, but later when investors become involved in shaping strategy, recruitment and other decisions, a point where their capacity for creativity and thinking outside the box is decisive. To encourage more diversity in the sector, Gompers and Kovvali recommend that VC firms try to hire diverse candidates at entry level, involve as much as possible minority VCs in higher level decisions and diversity personal networks beyond the workplace.

10. Robert E. Quinn and Anjan V. Thakor, Creating a purpose-driven organization

Companies and their work forces are often driven by transactional, self-interested logics, where everyone prioritises lowering costs and increasing rewards. However, this kind of attitude is depleting and rarely leads to extraordinary results. Sometimes, usually in response to a crisis, organisations find a sense of shared, higher purpose that leads to greater solidarity and outstanding business results. Shifting the dynamic, however, from transactional to higher purpose, also requires also inspired leadership. In this article Quinn and Thakor provide a road map for this journey, pointing out some of the essential steps involved. Thus, while being able to envision an inspired workforce is essential, there should be room for a thoughtful process of involving everyone in its discovery. Authenticity, sustaining the message, individual learning and involvement, middle managers who have become purpose-driven learners, and a clear, direct connection between each individual and the organisational purpose are all important. Every organisation has a pool of people who are already motivated along these lines. They should be put at the centre of the process to act as positive energisers for the whole company.

11. Tarun Khanna, When technology gets ahead of society

How do technological breakthroughs come to be adopted? How are their benefits developed and their risks contained? Khanna starts by drawing attention to the similarity with other situations where entrepreneurs and inventors do not enjoy the benefit of an existing market with its supporting institutions, for instance in developing countries. In these settings, entrepreneurs need to be aware that the way they pursue their immediate interests also has an effect in terms of creating a particular kind of market, the broader conditions that allow them to succeed. Khanna reviews the experience of several successful entrepreneurs in developing countries before deploying this reasoning in the case of the drone industry. He shows how different companies in this sector are introducing practices around learning and lobbying (AES), experimenting (Zipline), and building a commons (DJI) that might well serve to shape the rules of the game and the institutions responsible for articulating and enforcing them in this emerging market.

12. Vijay Govindarajan and Ravi Ramamurti, Transforming health care from the ground up

This article presents in detail two case studies for health care transformation. In the first, of innovation within the system, Mississippi Telehealth gradually linked remote, rural medical practices with experts at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre in Jackson. This allowed residents to receive more sophisticated care nearer to home, saving them time and money, while easing the burden on the A&E services at the Jackson centre. Innovation by start-ups is also possible, as shown by Iora Health. They hired and trained community health coaches to help patients stay motivated and disciplined in following their course of treatment, reducing significantly the need for expensive, acute care. While requiring considerable ingenuity and commitment on the part of their leaders, these initiatives also contain lessons and models that can be relevant more broadly for other insiders or entrepreneurs.

13. Richard A. D’Aveni, The 3-D printing playbook

D’Aveni takes stock of latest advances in 3-D printing technology, such as faster and more precise printer heads, faster power deposition, continuous liquid interface production and electronics-embedding technologies. He suggests that 3-D printing makes possible several business models, based on mass customization, variety, segmentation, modularisation, complexity or standardization and illustrates them with concrete examples. These models are not mutually exclusive and could be deployed by companies in a series of strategic moves: to block out potential competitors, dethrone or coexist with a market leader, compensate for weak supply or distribution chains, explore and capture new markets. He expects that the 3-D printing technology will allow the emergence of a new kind of pan-industrial factories that can supply an expanded, diverse set of products.

14. H. James Wilson and Paul R. Daugherty, Collaborative intelligence: Humans and AI are joining forces

Wilson and Daugherty start by identifying the concrete ways in which humans can assist machines (through training, explaining, sustaining) and machines can sustain humans (by amplifying, interacting, embodying). They then propose that humans and AI could have a positive impact on five elements of business processes: flexibility, speed, scale, decision making and personalisation. With this framework in hand, companies might accelerate the introduction of AI and the optimisation of their processes by identifying an operational area susceptible to improvement by developing a solution that combines human and AI strengths, and then scale and sustain it. Their analysis is illustrated with examples from Mercedes Benz, the Swedish bank SEB, Aida and Cortana, HSBC, Unilever and many others.

15. Adi Ignatius, “Managers don’t have all the answers”, a conversation with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon

In this wide-ranging interview, Dimon defends concentration and scale in banking, accepts the usefulness of the Dodd-Frank legislation, while arguing for calibration, shares concerns about cyberattacks and new competitive threats, such as new forms of payment, Chinese banks and cryptocurrency. He recognises that, while he is ‘fanatic about numbers, some of what goes into earnings estimates is fiction’, and doesn’t believe in giving quarterly estimates. In tackling inequality, he talks at length about his interest in Detroit and structural issues, considering executive compensation ‘a sideshow’.


16. Rob Cross, Scott Taylor, and Deb Zehner, Collaboration without burnout

People who are known to be good, helpful collaborators are often favourite targets for more participation requests and can end up feeling overextended and at risk of losing their sense of focus. To combat these dangers, and prevent burnout, this article suggests that we might like to start by distinguishing between two types of overload: surge and slow burn. In both cases, however, collaborators need to examine their motivations, ‘the specific identity-based triggers’ that lead them to accept requests and to gain a measure of distance from them. Eliminating the unnecessary and keeping it productive are two additional steps that also depend on discriminating more closely between projects and tasks and aligning them better with our true priorities.

17. Elie Ofek, Case Study: From niche to mainstream

This is a study of market penetration for a Japanese snack brand in the US market. The leader of the US subsidiary will ultimately need to find a way to balance brand identity, increased market share and profits as well as personal priorities, his partner’s needs and raising children abroad.

18. Nicole Torres, Are there good jobs in the gig economy?

Torres reviews three books on the gig economy. They explore in turn the subjective perspective of gig workers, the wider historical trends that have expanded the pool of temporary workers and necessary policy protection to help them achieve a modicum of security.

19. Alison Beard, Life’s work interview with Daniel Libeskind

Libeskind shares insights about the origins of his high profile, thriving architectural practice, his creative process, work philosophy and close relationships with his wife and colleague, Nina, his clients and fellow architects.