MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

Archive: September 2015

Is your lean startup violating labor laws?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 11 months and 30 days ago

startup

Many entrepreneurs today are well familiar with the principles of a lean startup. In a nutshell, they are guiding ideas on how startups can operate with much less waste. But over the years, what was really a theory on how to quickly build products that would be accepted in the marketplace became a practice on how to create entrepreneurial organizations with minimal financial investment. "Bootstrapping" and "working on a shoestring" have become synonymous.

Operating as leanly as possible makes much sense to most entrepreneurs--especially those who have not yet been funded. Many startups will leverage free and inexpensive services and technology to cut costs, and others will forgo hiring employees and instead rely on contractors to perform much of the work. While the latter may seem like a wise approach to building a lean organization, there is growing risk in that model. There are fundamental legal differences between a contractor and an employee, and startups fueled by the work of contractors need to be aware that government (state and federal) are cracking down on organizations that are intentionally or inadvertently violating labor laws.

Workforce magazine refers to the misclassification of employees as independent contractors as "the topic du jour in employment law." According to the U.S. Labor Department's Wage and Hour Division's formal interpretation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, “Misclassification of employees as independent contractors is found in an increasing number of workplaces in the United States, in part reflecting larger restructuring of business organizations." The government advisory concludes, "In sum, most workers are employees under the [federal law's] broad definitions."

Continue reading

A Q&A with executive certificate holder Sidita Hasi

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 3 days ago

Sidita Hasi

The following Q&A was conducted with Sidita Hasi, a recent recipient of an MIT Sloan Executive Certificate in Management and Leadership and an executive for FedEx Trade Networks. To earn her certificate she completed the following short courses: Neuroscience for LeadershipMaximizing Your Personal ProductivityCommunication and Persuasion in the Digital Age, and Creating High Velocity Organizations.  

What is your role at your company? Are there particular challenges you face that prompted you to enroll in executive education?

I currently work as a Project Leader for FedEx Trade Networks, the freight forwarding and customs brokerage arm of global shipping giant FedEx Corp. At the core of our corporate mission is delivering and exceeding customer expectations, what we call the "Purple Promise." I am responsible for overseeing and leading projects in regard to air/ocean global transportation and acting as the middleman across departments to solve issues that might impact product development and service quality. I also analyze development opportunities and support top management decision-making.

As we continue to grow and change in terms of internal organizational structure, new products and services--as well as the high velocity of industry changes in the recent years--there is a strong focus on continuous process improvement. Change is considered to be a survival competitive strategy rather than luxury or situational.

Continue reading

MIT Sloan Executive Education Professors named to Thinkers50

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 7 days ago

We are excited to announce that several of our MIT Sloan Executive Education faculty members have been named to the biennial Thinkers50 awards.

Thinkers50

The Thinkers50 was launched in 2001 as the first-ever global ranking of management thinkers. Its goal is to identify and share the best management thinking in the world, and it has been described by the Financial Times as the "Oscars of management thinking." The list offers several categories, including Breakthrough Idea Award, Digital Thinking Award, Ideas into Practice Award, Innovation Award, Leadership Award, Social Enterprise Award, Strategy Award, Talent Award, RADAR Award and Lifetime Achievement Award.

Continue reading

Why commonality sometimes fails

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 13 days ago

Commonality, or the reuse and sharing of components, manufacturing processes, architectures, interfaces, and infrastructure across the members of a product family, is a strategy targeted at improving corporate profitability. Companies from Toyota to GE use product platform strategies to deliver more variety to their customers and compete more effectively. For example, Black and Decker uses shared motors and batteries across a range of power tools. Volkswagen models such as the Jett and TT share similar underbody components and other aspects.

Typical benefits of a commonality, or a product platform strategy, include:

  • Shared development costs
  • Common testing procedures
  • Production economies of scale
  • Amortized fixed costs
  • Reduced inventory

By definition, commonality seems like an obviously good thing. Why incur the cost of making different parts for different products if the parts do the same thing?  Because as it turns out, commonality is not always the right thing to do. And even when it is right, it can be difficult to achieve.

Dr. Bruce Cameron is a lecturer in MIT's Engineering Systems Division and a consultant on platform strategies. His research at MIT uses a healthy dose of systems thinking to tease out when commonality makes sense and how to get companies to pull it off. Cameron oversaw the MIT Commonality Study, which closely examined 30 firms over eight years. The study was the first work to uncover that many firms fail to achieve their desired commonality targets, showing weaker investment return on their platform investments. "That type of behavior and phenomenon is seen in studies that we did in automotive, consumer products, and transport," says Cameron.

Continue reading

Social perception in the workplace makes organizations smarter

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 19 days ago

Job candidates are familiar with being tested during the interview process. True, some interview processes are simply a series of meetings with company personnel, but, in all honesty, that type of candidate screening is largely subjective. Some organizations, or departments within organizations, add empirical skills tests into the mix. Highly advanced organizations may even ask candidates to take personality tests, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

At first glance, organizations may view personality testing as something only large organizations do, or something that is too advanced or complex to manage. After all, if any particular candidate demonstrates the hard skills and "feels" like a good fit, does his or her personality traits matter that much? For those organizations looking to capitalize on collective intelligence, those traits do matter—and research shows they are extremely important.

Tom Malone

Collective intelligence, as explained by Thomas Malone, Professor of Information Technology and Director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI), is the idea that people working in teams can achieve more than they can on their own. Add the power of computing and you have the potential for a highly intelligent, highly productive group.

Continue reading

Search innovation@work Blog

Subscribe to Blog by Email

Cutting-edge research and business insights presented by MIT Sloan faculty.

Interested in writing a guest post?