MB 709 Spring 2004
Managing People and Organizations
Prof. Steve Borgatti

borgatts@bc.edu; Tel: 978 456-7356; Office Hrs: Tu 9:30-10:30; Fulton 145, Tu 7-9:30, www.analytictech.com/mb709


Topical Overview

The objective of this course is to improve your effectiveness as a manager by deepening your understanding of how organizations work. To succeed in the business world, you must learn a diversity of skills including how to work for other people, with other people, and through other people, as well as setting up structures that facilitate work.

Organizations have been studied from the perspective of several social science disciplines, including psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, and political science. These diverse disciplines are brought together under the banner of organizational behavior, which is the field upon which this course is based. However, rather than study the more fundamental elements of organizational behavior, such as personality, motivation and perception, our focus will be on relating key processes like exercising power and making decisions to high level structures such as organizational design, social networks, and organizational culture.

Whether one wants to be a physicist, an accountant, or a longshoreman, most of what one has to learn is tacit and procedural rather than mastering a codified body of material that can be found in books. Management is a particularly extreme example of this. In many ways, learning to manage has more to do with growing up than learning a specific body of knowledge or toolkit. With this course I hope to speed-up the growth process by providing opportunities to reflect on your own experience and apply frameworks that help draw insight from what you already know.

Course Structure

The course relies heavily on class discussion, often using business cases as vehicles. Much of the learning you have already done about organizational behavior is tacit knowledge that can be brought to light by examining real situations and discussing them. Thus, it is crucial to read the homework materials carefully before coming to class.

In addition, you will largely work in teams in this class. I will assign the teams at random, although you will be allowed to transfer to another team during the first week (after that, they are permanent). Working with others is of course a key skill and this course is meant to provide opportunities to develop those skills. Teams can have between 5 and 8 members. You must email me the composition of your group before class on Jan 27th.

The assignments for this course are as follows:

In-class assessment (35%). This will be a comprehensive examination of your understanding of course concepts. It will take place in class on April 27th. This is not a team exercise, although I strongly suggest studying in teams. Books, notes and internet connections will be allowed. Think of it as a comprehensive final exam in which you are responsible for all material covered in the course in readings, class discussion, and activities.

Group research project (35%). The project consists of an in-depth analysis of a current issue or event in organizational life. The data should be drawn from the press or from direct observation of an organization. If drawn from the press, it should pertain to a well-documented event (and your paper should meticulously record what observations came from what source). If drawn from direct observation, the data collection should not be dominated by any one person (such as the person who works there). In other words, everyone on the team has to do interviews themselves with members of the organization. There are two key deliverables. One is a 30-minute presentation (23 minutes plus 7 minutes for questions) in class (May 4th). Creativity and clarity is encouraged in the presentation, within a basic framework of professionalism. The other is a 20 page written report due May 6th via email. Completeness and logic are important in the report. The grade for the research project will be an average of the two parts. Important: you must get your project topic approved by me via e-mail by Feb 24th before class. For more information on the group research project, click here.

Case debates (15%). On each day that we have a case, I will randomly select two teams to act as Presenters and Responders, respectively. The Presenters present their views of the case, and the Responders challenge them. The rest of the class will also participate, and will act as a jury in evaluating the performance of the groups. Please note that some teams will end up participating more often than others. Some may not be chosen at all. Grades will be an average of a team's performances.  The presentations should be no longer than 10 minutes in length and should address three areas: (a) Key issues. This is a description of the problems or issues raised by the case, without a recitation of the facts of the case; (b) Analysis: This is a diagnosis of the causes of the situation or problems described and an application of the course concepts and theories; and (c) Management Action: This is a prescription based on the analysis that says who should do what next. Do not present "solutions" that come out of thin air. There is no purpose to part "b" unless it provides the basis for part "c". The response should consist of asking questions of the presenters about their analysis and supplementing the presenters' views with their own (spending no more than 5 minutes on their own views).

Class participation (5%).  This refers to participation outside of designated Presenter/Responder roles. I expect everyone to participate in class discussion and activities. Sharing your real-life experiences as they apply to the discussion will be particularly valuable to the class. Constructive criticism of others' views and genuine listening to others is an important element of class participation. Participation is graded on preparedness, willingness to contribute, relevance, positive attitude, and grasp of the material. An important feature of this class is the listserv. I expect each person to send at least one message to the class listserv each week, starting on the 27th. The topic should be "people and organizations" broadly defined. For example, you might comment on the readings. Or you can talk about recent events in the papers, such as Martha Stewart or the political campaigns. The listserv will be set up during the first week, and instructions will be posted to the web.

Homeworks (5%). There will a handful of homework exercises, assigned as we go along, to be performed by groups and individuals. These include everything from filling out surveys to writing short essays.

Case write-ups (5%). For every case we discuss in class, you must hand in (via email) a written analysis. There are approximately 10 of these (see schedule), each worth a half a percentage point. The reports should be succinct 1-page executive summaries of (a) the key issues -- the management issue raised by the case (but not a restatement of the facts of the case), often the problem that the main character faces but not always; (b) diagnoses -- the causes of the problem / the analysis of why things are happening the way they are / application of theoretical concepts; and (c) prescriptions for each case -- a plan of action based squarely on the analysis. You do not have to use this format explicitly in writing the case up. Case write-ups are a group assignment, due via email before class on the day the case is discussed. Late papers are not allowed, regardless of the reason.


The textbook for this course is a paperback called "A Primer on Organizational Behavior" by Bowditch and Buono. While it provides a foundation in organizational behavior concepts, it will take a backseat to the other readings, such as the articles and cases. The articles we will read are a combination of practitioner-oriented Harvard Business Online monographs, Harvard Business Review articles, and academic research papers. All articles and cases are available online. The Harvard Business Online cases and monographs cost money (usually less than $5 each), and the other articles are free (but require BC id).  An extended case study is provided by the book Liars Poker written by Michael Lewis and available at the school bookstore by the second week, or via Amazon.


The schedule of assignments and readings is online at www.analytictech.com/mb709/schedule.htm. Please note that the schedule may (in fact, will) change throughout the semester to reflect the needs and interests of the class. That's one of the key benefits of having it online. It is therefore your responsibility to check the online schedule constantly -- at the very least once a week. Do not print it out once and assume it is valid for the rest of the semester. You have been warned!


In some ways school contrasts markedly with work. In particular, I consider school to be a protected space in which one can ask "dumb" questions without hurting one's reputation long-term. This is a really useful thing. Your thinking can take a quantum leap forward when you have the opportunity to bring voice to half-formed thoughts and bounce them off other people. Also, it's good to stretch one's ability to withstand embarrassment. You should take advantage of this difference from work.

In other ways, school is the same as work, at least the way I look at it. Behavior that is unacceptable at work, such as sloppy, mistake-filled reports will be unacceptable here as well. And just as doing email and having side conversations is unacceptable at business meetings, it will be unacceptable in class as well.

You should always feel free to email me (borgatts@bc.edu) and to call me at home (978-456-7356, after 9am and before 10pm).

Copyright 2004 Stephen P. Borgatti Revised: January 26, 2005 Home Page