Photo of John Paul MacDuffie

John Paul MacDuffie

Professor of Management

Research Interests: links between corporate strategy and high-performance work systems, flexible/lean production systems, organizational learning, collaborative problem-solving, diffusion of management practices, product, organizational, and industry architecture, determinants of location decisions, managing people over distance

Links: CV

  • MGMT751 - Strategic Management of Human Assets

    Successful firms often excel in the capability of employing and deploying human assets (resources) to achieve the effective implementation of business strategy. To understand this capability, this course will address two central themes: 1) How to think systematically and strategically about various aspects of managing the organization's human assets; and 2) What really needs to be done to implement these policies and achieve competitive advantage. In order to think "systematically" about this topic for any particular organization, we will consider the bundles of work practices and human resources processes that make up the overall system for managing people and evaluate whether these are internally consistent and aligned ("internal fit"). To think "strategically," we will then assess the relationship between practices/processes of managing people and the firm's strategy and strategic context, e.g. industry structure, competitive landscape, political, social, and economic environment -- for evidence of external fit. By paying attention to implementation, we will recognize that although many organizations recognize the importance of managing the workforce effectively (and even "know" what approaches have been effective elsewhere), firms and managers very often fail to implement these approaches.

    The course is organized in four sections: 1) Setting out basic frameworks for viewing the strategic management of human assets as a source of competitive advantage for firms; 2) Comparing and contrasting four different approaches to organizing human assets: "Control", "Commitment" model, "Talent" model, and "Collaborative", 3) Addressing the "make" vs. "buy" decision for human assets, i.e. when to upgrade the internal skills of existing employees (including promotion from within) in order to boost capabilities and compete in new areas vs. when to hire people who already have the necessary skills, via external hires and/or hiring individuals on contract; and 4) Analyzing the relationships among culture, HR systems, and organization change when faced with strategic shifts; leadership crises; rapid growth, and global expansion. The strategic management of human assets is only one source of competitive advantage. Yet many managers recognize (and many successful organizations embody) the reality that the competitive edge gained from the newest technology, the latest marketing strategy, or the most creative product design may be relatively short-lived as competitors rush to imitate and follow.

    Aligning human resource systems with business strategy is not easy, but once achieved, it seems to offer a more sustainable - because more unique and difficult to imitate - source of competitive advantage.

    MGMT751002  ( Syllabus

    MGMT751004  ( Syllabus