Managing Individuals and Groups in Organizations

Kellogg Graduate School of Management

WHU Koblenz

Kellogg School of Management  
Professor J. Peter Murmann
Northwestern University 
Office: 847-467-3502  
Office Hours: Anytime by appointment

Course Description

Class Schedule

Additional Readings

Course Description

Leading managers assemble the skills, talents, and resources of individuals and groups into those combinations that best solve the problem at hand.  Leading managers also know how to introduce their your own skills and abilities into the teams they participate in.  The successful execution of these goals requires managing your personal contacts, tapping the human and social capital of the organization, and optimizing your cross-functional teams and interfirm ties. 

This course prepares you to achieve these aims by providing the tools for leading, understanding the decision biases of individuals, and managing the social organization of teams. 

A component list of the strategies and skills this course furnishes is.

·        Tools for making competitive decisions and for leading others you depend on.

·        Improve your command of how to manage the cognitive and social processes that determine collaboration and competition in organizations.

·        Develop your mastery of how a network of contacts can be constructed and optimally leveraged to build teams or neutralize power plays against you. 

·        Diagnose complex organizational cultures and their effects on socialization, commitment, and personal achievement.

Class Format

Each topic area is covered in two sessions: a lecture/discussion session and case analysis session.  The lecture/discussion session reviews the week's readings with the aim of providing a language for exchanging ideas as well as a set of concepts that are useful for analyzing organizational problems.  While reading the course materials you should ask yourself: Do I understand the theory?; What are its implications?; and Under what conditions can I apply it as a manager?  After the lecture/discussion session, we will then analyze a case in the following session using the concepts and tools from the readings.  We use a combination of conceptual training and case analysis because it provides a balance between understanding general theory and how to apply theory to real-life situations.

Written assignments:

A:  Consultation Memo (40% of the Grade) 

Managers dedicate their time to managing the varied abilities and skills of individual employees with the aim of assembling their competencies into those combinations that best solve the problem at hand.  Managers also insert their own skills and abilities into their teams.  Therefore, your success depends on how well you synthesize individual capabilities and manage networks. 

The purpose of the assignment is to have you apply the theory and research on social networks to an applied problem you currently face.  Using the concepts discussed in the course, your assignment is to analyze your social network’s capabilities for identifying and capitalizing on opportunities. This is an opportunity to spend some time reaching a deeper understanding of your social network. 

Your memo analyzing the capabilities and limitations of your network should be 2-3 pages and directed a particular problem at hand such as a promotion, a hiring, a job change, the launching of a new product, or dealing with problematic individuals.  It is recommended that your memo be shared with another member of your study group who can respond to your memo.  The respondent should focus on whether she or he agrees or disagrees with your strategic analysis and interpretation of the situation utilizing the concepts form the readings and class. Your memo and your respondent’s memo is due 3 weeks after our last class session. I will distribute an example of a consultation memo for your review.  There is no requirement however to follow the format of the example.

B: Case Analysis (50% of the Grade)

The final consists of an analysis of a business school case. The format of the case analysis is short-answer essays (about 1 page in length).  The case analysis is an individual effort. 

Typical case analysis questions ask you to analyze a managerial problem in the case and evaluate the process that was used to address the problem. Then you may be asked to comment on the appropriateness of the actions taken (or not taken) or why they achieved or failed to achieve a desired outcome using the analytical tools we developed in class.

I do not anticipate that you will need to use materials beyond those provided in the course.  An excellent answer can be written using only the materials from this class.  Materials used from outside the class must be appropriately cited.  An excellent paper is one that demonstrates your ability to apply what you have learned through readings, lectures, and class discussions in selective and creative ways to analyze and solve organizations problems.  Selective means using the concepts and theories that will give you the most leverage, not a core dump of all possible responses.  Create means extending the material or applying it in new ways.

Here are some guidelines for approaching the assignment:

·        Refer to and use conceptual tools explicitly.  This will help convey your understanding of the material and will economize on time and space.

·        Make a point and provide reasons/evidence to support it.  Try to go beyond description (a narration of what happened) to analysis (an explanation of why it happened) using the information in the case and analytic tools from the class.

·        Demonstrate your ability to apply the readings, lectures, and class discussions in accurate, selective, and creative ways to diagnose, analyze, and remedy organizational problems.  Accurate means using the conceptual tools in a correct and consistent manner.  

·        Industry knowledge is helpful but not required for a excellent answer.

C: Class Participation  (10% of Grade)

The instructor and your peers will grade your Class participation – peers in particular play an important role since they are the ultimate beneficiaries of class discussion.  Excellent comments possess one or more of the following attributes: (1) they offer an original and relevant perspective on the issue, (2) they move the analysis forward by building on previous contributions or by revealing fresh insights, (3) they transcend the “I feel” syndrome by including evidence that is based on more than personal experience -- in other words, your thinking should reflect and integrate examples from other contexts. 

Good Luck!

Required Reading

A case packet contains all assigned readings; no books are required.

For additional readings refer to my web page:




Class 1

Lesson Objectives:

What are the sources of competitive advantage?

How does Southwest Air gain a competitive edge through people?

Is Southwest Air’s strategy generalizable?

Assigned Readings:

·         Pfeffer, Jeffrey.  “Competitive Advantage through People.”  California Management Review  (1994).

·         Hallowell, Roger.  1996.  “Southwest Airlines: A Case Study Linking Employee Needs Satisfaction and Organizational Capabilities to Competitive Advantage.”  Human Resource Management: v35: 513-534.

Case discussion questions:

1. What is Southwest Airline’s competitive advantage?

2.   How does Southwest create value for employees?

3.   How does Southwest convert value to benefit customers and shareholders?

4.  How does Southwest capture value in the marketplace?

5.   What are the key management practices at Southwest Airlines?

6.   Is Southwest Air’s strategy generalizable?

7.   Can it work in your organization?

“Both Continental and United Airlines have copied aspects of (Southwest’s)strategy…less disciplined carriers focus on only a few of these principles and often apply them inconsistently.”(Hallowell, 515)

“…new airlines that have tried to duplicate Southwest’s success have failed. Ultimately, they get one part of the equation wrong.”  (Godsay, p. 26)

“Not surprisingly, many of its competitors, after finally acknowledging Nordstrom’s success, and the fact it was attributable to the behaviors of its employees, instituted commission systems.  By itself, changing the compensation system did not fully capture what Nordstrom had done, nor did it provide many benefits to the competition.  Indeed, in some cases, changing the compensation system produced employee grievances and attempts to unionize when the new system was viewed as unfair and arbitrary.”
(Pfeffer, p.18)


Competitive Decision Making

Lesson Objectives: Three umpires, Fred, Jo, and Pat are debating the validity of how they call strikes.  Fred says, “I call them as they are.”  Bill replies, “I call them as I see them.”  Bill retorts, “You’re both wrong.  They ain’t noth’in ‘till I call‘em.”  How are strikes called in your firm and what’s a batter to do?

Assigned Readings:

Bazerman, Max H.  "Introduction To Managerial Decision Making," and "Biases," pp. 1-42 in Judgment in Managerial Decision-Making, 2nd edition: New York: Wiley (1998).

Carter Racing.

Murmann, Johann Peter. Managing with Self-Affirmation Theory. Kellogg School of Magagement Case. (2001)

 Case discussion questions:

1.       Working Individually come to class with: (a) a recommendation to race or not and (b) a justification for your decision.

On this graph, the X axis represents the nominal units gained or lost, and the Y axis represents the units of utility associated with varying levels of gain or loss. It suggests that decision makers tend to avoid risk concerning gains and seek risk concerning losses. Most individuals choose a $10,000,000 sure gain over a 50 percent chance of getting a $20,000,000 gain, but most individuals choose a 50 percent chance of a $20,000,000 loss over a sure loss of $10,000,000, since the negative value placed on $20,000,000 is not twice as great as the negative value placed on $10,000,000.


Work Teams and Tactics of Influence

Lesson Objectives:

What are the leadership tactics for turning around low performing teams?

Assigned Readings:

·         Cialdini, Robert B.  "Weapons Of Influence" and "Reciprocation," pp. 1-57 in Influence: How And Why People Agree To Things.  (1995).

Assigned Cases:

·        “12 Angry Men." (Distributed during class)

Case discussion questions:

1.  Distributed and discussed during class



Managing Social Capital through Networking

Lesson Objectives: How do networks achieve objectives or block plans the work against you?

          Complete 6 degrees of separation worksheet in syllabus.


Assigned Readings:

·         Burt, Ronald S.  “The Social Capital of Entrepreneurial Managers.”  Financial Times (1996) 1 page.

·         Managing Xerox's Multinational Development Center.

Browse if time permits:

·         Krackhardt, David and Hanson, J. “Informal Networks: The Company Behind the Chart.”  Harvard Business Review, July-Aug: 104-109 (1993). 

·         Burt, Ronald S.  "The Social Structure Of Competition," pp. 57-91 in Nitin Nohria and Robert Eccles (eds.) Networks and Organizations: Structure, Form and Action. MA: HBS Press (1992).  Discuss this piece in your Study Groups.  It is an important but complex article that fills in the “holes” in the Financial Times exec brief.

Text Box:

Case discussion questions:

1. What are John Clendenin's personal goals?  What are his business goals at Xerox?

2. What barriers did he confront in accomplishing these objectives?

3. What strategies and tactics did Clendenin utilize to overcome the barriers and accomplish his objectives?

4. In light of what you know about social capital, how should Clendenin respond to Hewitt's offer relative to staying at MDC or leaving? What actions should he take now?


Competitive Advantage through Organizational Culture

Lesson Objectives:                  

What is organizational Culture?

How can it get employees to say, “I’m working 80 hours and week and lov’in it!”

When is culture most important?

Assigned Reading:

·         O'Reilly, Charles.  "Corporations, Culture and Commitment: Motivations and Social Control In Organizations."  California Management Review, 31:9-25 (1996).

·         MTV: Rocking in Shangri-La (Case)

Browse if time permits:

·         Pacale, Richard.  "Fitting New Employees Into The Company Culture," pp. 655-663 in Harold J. Levitt, Louis R. Pondy and David M Boje (eds.) Managerial Psychology, 4th ed. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago (1989).









Case discussion questions:

1. What kind of business is MTV in? What are the key success factors of the business? What is MTV’s core competency?

2. Characterize the culture at MTV via description of artifacts, core values and assumptions.

3. How is this culture maintained?  What are the roles of selection and socialization?

4. Can these cultural factors be used in normal organizations?  Which ones and how?

5. Are there cultural liabilities for MTV as it grows into new markets?

6. What should MTV do to prepare for the global MTV generation?