MLD-113M: Strategy and Decision with Peter Zimmerman

How can effective leaders learn from experience and decisions in the past to make more effective decisions that advance one’s strategic purpose?

Book Cover: Strategy: A History, by Lawrence Freedman, Copyright Oxford University Press, 2013

Strategy is expressed in the decisions we make every day. There are no choices or actions that are truly neutral with respect to one’s strategic purpose.  Yet few decisions come labelled as “strategic”; instead policy makers, analysts and managers face an unending stream of judgments and choices that arrive in varied frames from every imaginable direction.

No decision stands alone. Today’s decisions are linked undeniably to decisions in the past reflected in the experience of individuals, groups, teams and organizations, even nations.  Experience both enables and limits our perceptions, beliefs, values, predispositions and capabilities. We both learn from the past (it’s all we’ve got) yet our learning can be limited by the deceptive clarity and presumed certainty associated with explanations of past events.

MLD-113M Strategy and Decision with Peter Zimmerman will help students develop more robust explanations of past decisions, their strategic impact and will help students make better predictions of the effects of future decisions.  Taking as the course text cases and stories involving others, from different times and places, and even students’ own stories and experience, students will work on three parallel tracks. First, students have the chance to analyze and explain decisions large & small while experimenting in a tentative qualitative way with how things might come out differently. Next, they explore the science of behavior & decision-making (i.e., what are the sources of influence on decision and what’s going on in the black box?). Finally, they develop a framework to help improve our explanations & predictions and to integrate individual choices into a pattern of strategic decisions. Harvard students can view a course preview video with Peter Zimmerman.

This course is offered in the 2nd module of Fall 2020. If you have any questions about this course, or any other in the MLD curriculum, email Greg Dorchak, MLD Area Administrator.

Greg Dorchak

Administrator of the Management, Leadership, and Decision Sciences Area at the Harvard Kennedy School.