Business School Students Study Corporate Covid-19 Challenges
By WSJ Noted.
Many students in M.B.A. programs will find themselves analyzing
management decisions made during the pandemic when they return to
their business classes this spring semester. But students in some
programs have already begun to study corporate pandemic challenges
and crisis management.
1. Professors at top M.B.A. programs will focus on teaching
lessons learned from the pandemic during the upcoming semester.
Case studies at Harvard Business School will include how
companies like Zoom Video Communications Inc. and Airbnb Inc.
shifted their marketing strategies to appeal to consumers during
the pandemic. All M.B.A.s and executive M.B.A.s at the University
of Pennsylvania's Wharton School will have access to a new online
class called "Leadership in Challenging Times" featuring guest
speakers that include the chief executives of Johnson &
Johnson, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Vail Resorts Inc. and Progressive
Corp., on how they navigated through 2020, said Michael Useem, a
professor of management at Wharton. William Lauder, executive
chairman of Estée Lauder Cos., is a co-teacher of the course with
Useem and another professor. "How do we think through and make sure
we're making the right decisions to sustain the organization into
the future" is the fundamental premise of the course, he said. "How
do you think through these challenges and come to what appears to
be the right solution when there is no perfect answer?"
2. One example exposed students to the inner workings of the
life-sciences industry during a pandemic.
Harvard Business School professor Willy Shih introduced a
pharmaceutical case study to his technology and
operations-management class in the fall. In the scenario, students
had to decide whether a pharmaceutical company should you accept
government money -- and the strings attached with it -- to find a
vaccine and try to catch up with rivals it was seen to be trailing.
After more than an hour of debate, most students agreed that the
drugmaker should forgo government funding, Mr. Shih said. Many
advocated the company stick to private development, saying it was
better for the long-term health of its vaccine business to not rely
on government help. The case study was based on the real-life
example of Merck & Co., which didn't accept funding from
Operation Warp Speed to develop a vaccine but got $38 million in
May from a branch of the Department of Health and Human Services to
help with development. The company began human testing of its first
vaccine in September and has said it hopes to produce a single-dose
3. Students at Columbia Business School debated whether Covid-19
was the right motivation for a factory modernization.
Kathryn Harrigan, a strategy professor at Columbia Business
School, wrote a case study of Smithfield Foods Inc., the largest
pork producer in the U.S. In the scenario, students were
hypothetically asked whether the company should invest more in
technology to automate its meatpacking plants. The industry employs
thousands of workers across North America, a percentage of whom got
sick with Covid-19 last year. "There was a heated debate in class
about whether Covid was the right motivation for a factory
modernization," Ms. Harrigan said. The beauty of such a current
case, Ms. Harrigan said, is that it has no concrete answers yet.
Smithfield has invested more than $700 million in protective
measures for its employees, including on-site Covid-19
prescreening, air purification systems, physical barriers at work
stations and employee protective equipment, said Keira Lombardo,
the company's chief administrative officer. Smithfield has also
already invested tens of millions of dollars in robotics and other
processes to automate production at its facilities; the efforts are
ongoing, the company said.
Read the original article by Patrick Thomas here.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 11, 2021 18:32 ET (23:32 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.