MBA 230 | Syllabus

Download Syllabus in PDF format


Fall 2012                                                                                                Professor Jerry D. Estenson


College of Business Administration


MBA 230 Behavioral Science Applications in Management

Understanding the Human Side of Organizations

Section Seven: 4:30 – 5:45 Monday and Wednesday


            INSTRUCTOR     Jerry D. Estenson
                     OFFICE     Tahoe 2048
OFFICE TELEPHONE     916-278-6781
                        EMAIL     Private: (Best Address)
                                       CSUS: (Weakest Address)
        OFFICE HOURS     MW: 2:30 – 4:00 and by appointment
            CLASSROOM     Tahoe 1004


(Subject to Change)

Required Texts for all seminar participants:

There is no required organizational behavior text required for this course.  The operating theory is that you have been exposed to organizational behavior in your undergraduate work and this course will not be a rehash of what you have learned.  That said, sometimes it is sometimes helpful for a reference source to be available.  To that end I have placed the following books in the reserve book room for your use:


Reserve Books:

  1. Kinicki, Angelo and Fugate, Mel. (2012). Organizational Behavior: Key Concepts, Skills, and Best Practices. New York: McGraw Hill (Reference Text)

  2. Nelson, Debra and Quick, James Campbell. (2009). OrgB. Mason, Ohio: South-Western CENGAGE Learning

  3. McShane, Steven L. and Von Glinow, Mary Ann (2012). Organizational Behavior. New York: McGraw Hill

This is a qualitative research course focused on human behavior in organizations and one way to stimulate thinking about the subject is the use of a wide variety of books and articles.  The follow are the required readings for the course.

All Teams Books:

Perspective on Management Theory.

  1. Woolridge, Adrian. (2011). Masters of Management: How the Business Gurus and Their Ideas Have Changed the World – For Better and For Worse. New York: Harper Collins. (All read and prepare discussion paper)

How our mind helps and hurts our decision-making ability.

  1. Kehneman, Daniel. (2011). Thinking Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. (All read and prepare discussion paper)

Individual Team Books:

Organizations in trouble:

  1. Van Heerden, Ivor and Bryan, Mike. (2006). The Storm: What Went Wrong and Why During Hurricane Katrina.  The Inside Story From One Louisiana Scientist. New York: Viking

  2. Bergin, Tom. (2011). Spills and Spins: The Inside Story of BP. London: Random House Books.

  3. Henriques, Diana B. (2011). The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust. New York: Henry Holt and Company.


Creativity and Innovation in Organizations:

  1. Vaitheeswaran, Vijay V. (2012). Need, Speed, and Greed: How the New Rules of Innovation Can Transform Businesses, Propel Nations to Greatness, and Tame the World’s Most Wicked Problems. New York: HarperCollins.

  2. Gertner, Jon. (2012). The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and The Great Age of American Innovation. New York: Penquin Press.

  3. Levy, Steven. (2011). In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. New York: Simon and Schuster.

  4. Stanton, Doug. (2009). Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan. New York: Scribner

  5. Isaacson, Walter. (2011). Steve Jobs. New York: Simon and Schuster

A different perspective on people and organizations:

  1. Zolli, Andrew and Healy, Ann Marie. (2012). Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back. New York: Free Press
  2. Hamel, Gary. (2007). The Future of Management. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Articles:  All articles are available on the Harvard Business School Press Education Site.  That address is: Articles are available at a discounted student price so please order through this site to avoid paying retail for the articles. (If you haven’t logged into HBSP before, you will be prompted to register and create your own login when you use the link above to find the course-pack of articles.)



Nohria, Nitin, Groysberg, Boris, and Lee, Linda-Eling. (2008, Jul/Aug). Employee motivation: A powerful new model. HBR Reprint Number: R0807G.



Jordan, Kathleen. (Jan 2003). Analyze this: Can personality theory help you lead your unit?  Reprint Number: U0302D.



Bern, Gregory.(2008). From perception to Imagination: How iconoclasts free themselves from conventional thinking. Book Chapter. HBR Reprint Number:7750BC.


     Case Study:  Day in life of Adam Sanders.


Decision Making/Innovation/Creativity:

Kahneman, Daniel, Lovallo, Dan, and Sibony, Olivier. (June, 2011). Before you make that big decision: Dangerous biases can creep into every strategic choice. Here’s how to find them-before they lead you astray.  Reprint Number: R1106B


Govindarajan, Vijay and Trimbel, Chris. (Spring, 2005). Organizational DNA for strategic innovation. HBR Reprint Series. California Management Review



Cohen, Dan. (2005). Make it stick: Embedding change in organizational culture. Book Chapter. HBR Reprint Number: 7539BC


Case Study:  Pfeffer, Jeffery.(1998). SAS Institute (A) A different approach to incentives and people management practices in the software industry. HBR Case: HR-6A.



Katzenback, Jon R. and Smith, Douglas K. (July August 2005). The discipline of teams. HBR Reprint Number: R0507P.


     Case Study:  TerraCog



Hamm, John.(May,2006) The five messages leaders must manage. HBR Reprint Number: R0605G.



Heifetz, Ronald, Grashow, Alexander, and Linsky, Mary. (2009). Diagnose the political landscape. Understanding political relationships in the organization will help you lead adaptive change.  Book Chapter. HBR Reprint Number: 3277BC.


Goleman, Daniel and Boyatzis, Richard. (September 2008)  Social Intelligence and the biology of leadership. HBR Reprint: R0809E.



Pfeffer, Jeffrey. (July-August 2010). Power play. HBR Reprint Number: R1007G.



Heifetz, Ronald, Grashow, Alexander and Linsky, Mary. (2009). Orchestrate Conflict: Leading adaptive change by surfacing and managing conflict. Book Chapter.  HBR Reprint Number: 3282BC.



Kotter, John P. (December 2001). What leaders really do. HBR Reprint Number: R0111F

Useem, Michael. (November 2011) Four Lessons in Adaptive Leadership. HBR Reprint Number: R1011F.



O’Reilly, Charles A. and Tushman, Michael L. (Summer 2011). Organizational Ambidexterity in Action.  HBR Reprint Number: CMR 486.  California Management Review: Summer 2011.



Christensen, Clayton and Overdorf, Michael. (March-April 2000) Meeting the challenge of disruptive change.  HBR Reprint Number: R00202.



From the instructor’s perspective, organizations that are able to accomplish their purpose and consistently outperform their peers are those who can change out their engines while in flight. To perform this seemingly impossible feat requires a flexible organizational design and culture supported by high quality leaders.  This requires all key players in the organization to have a clear view of the organization’s future, an appreciation of its full potential, a plan to get there, and to exhibit behaviors that support others along the journey. At the core of the leader’s behavior is understanding both their and their organization’s strengths and weaknesses. To assist in understanding this complex process, we will use many tools as reflected in the above list of readings.  


You will be expected, by course end, to have developed a better understanding of the theories that help explain human behavior in organizations. In addition, you should have a working knowledge of a number of techniques available to transform organizations and to understand manager behaviors required to drive change.  You will have demonstrated the ability to analyze complex organizations to determine what factors contributed to their success or failure. All of this will be done in a high-paced, intense learning environment.  This environment is created to simulate the world in which you will operate as you move to more senior positions.


This approach to learning has proven highly successful in developing senior leaders and will provide an opportunity for you to decide if you are going to lead or become a technocrat.  Organizations need people in both roles and it is important that you sort out at which end of the continuum you want to spend your energy and talent.


Attempting to learn and teach in this environment is challenging for both the instructor and the student. With that in mind we can expect difficulties and adjustments.  How we handle these challenges will be part of our joint learning process.



During the seminar you will be introduced to concepts and the practices of managers and leaders that result in people behaving poorly or well in organizations. By becoming familiar with a diverse collection of readings, which attempt to explicate these behaviors, you can start to move from observer to actor in your organization.


This diverse collection of readings will provide you different world-views, complete with assumptions about the nature of human kind, the role of organizations, and what should or should not be done by a leader. Several of these views will be in conflict.  For instances viewing a leader as a jazz musician is very different than a leader as military commander; viewing the leader as facilitator is very different from leader as NFL coach. These leadership metaphors will be developed as you progress through the readings, listen to the riveting lectures, participate in class discussions and conduct your analysis.



Goal One

Provide the opportunity to study different theories related to human behavior in organizations. This process should stimulate new ways of thinking about managers, leaders and followers.
Outcome:     Ability to actively be involved in class discussions of theories and demonstration of knowledge of concepts in observation papers.
Ability to translate knowledge into a thoughtful analysis of organizations, and the people who populate them.


Goal Two

Provide leadership opportunities in class settings.
Outcome:     Multiple applications of lessons learned in the classroom to class assignments. Each application increases ability to be an integral part of the team learning process and should lead to transferring new knowledge and behaviors to the work place. 


Goal Three

Increase competencies necessary to handle complex human dynamics in various organizational settings.
Outcome:     Modify behavior on class teams and at work to reflect a contextually appropriate leadership style and appropriate use of your talent.


Mastery of Basic Organizational Behavior Concepts

You will be tested to insure that you have mastered the assigned material. You will be called upon in class to provide your perspective on various leadership theories and analysis of cases studied and readings. These are opportunities to demonstrate that you have mastered the language and fundamental concepts of leadership and imbedded human drives.


Mastery of Complex Tools Needed to Analyze Change

You will prepare case analysis of organizations in different sectors and write critiques of current management literature.  Your analysis will focus on the behaviors of people in various roles in organizations operating in different sectors and organizations. These analyses will provide a foundation of skill that should serve you well as you attempt to understand the organization in which you work, manage and lead.


Performance Metrics:

Class Participation (10% - 100 points)

You will be expected to come to class having read all pre-class assignments.  You will be asked to present your views on the articles and any significant learning which resulted from the readings and case analysis. Higher grades will be given to students who consistently provide relevant and quality observations on readings and exercises, are willing to take on the role of leader or follower in class exercises, and are a willing participant in group discussions. In addition each candidate will be placed in the role of leader for a group activity.  How effectively they perform the role of leader will have an impact on this metric.


Instructor’s Expectation:
Each candidate will attend class prepared to participate in discussions and contribute to their team.  They will conduct themselves in a professional manner demonstrating respect for other seminar members.  They will not attempt to control discussions but will make thoughtful contributions that assist group learning.


Individual Master Dimension One (8 % - 80 points)


Individual Papers

At the onset of the course, each candidate will prepare a short paper which contains three key elements:

  1. What role does an organization play in society?
  2. What is the most significant human issue facing organizations today? What is causing this issue to occur?
  3. Left unsupervised humans will…
  4. Do humans have primal needs?  If so what are they? How do they impact behavior in organizations?

At the end of the course each candidate will prepare the same paper on the same organization.


Instructor’s Expectation:

During the semester you will develop a higher skill set in recognizing organizational issues and preparation of recommendations.


Individual Master Dimension Two (6 % - 60 points)

Are you actually doing the reading?

At the conclusion of each block of basic knowledge (readings) you will be given a short exam based on the material.


Instructor’s Expectation:
Each candidate will have read the assigned material and have mastered the key concepts to the extent that they will receive a score of 90% or higher on each examination.

Team Analysis and Recommendation of Assigned Case Studies

(15% - 150 Points- 75 points per case)

The class will be divided into study teams.  The teams will be responsible for preparing a written analysis and a 15 minute seminar on their evaluation of the cases and their recommendation/ observations.  The structure of the seminar can take any form the group decides but must cover as a minimum: key factors affecting the organization’s environment, an issue definition, analysis of root cause, options and recommendation/major observation.


Instructor’s Expectations:
Each team will prepare a well-written paper and discussion points using models contained in course texts, academic material or publicly available material on the organization under study.  The paper will contain all elements discussed above and should not exceed five pages in length. Delivery of the material during the seminar will be left up to the team. As part of the presentation each team will prepare a one page briefing paper for the entire class. The paper will be handed out at the start of the presentation. Each team’s presentation will be graded by the instructor and the class.  The written analysis will constitute 70% of the value of the project and the presentation will make up 30%.

Team Analysis of Assigned Books (63%)

You will again be broken into action teams to evaluate perspectives on an organization’s culture and their leaders. The authors have different background and the organizations are from different sectors. Your team will analyze the data provided in the books and present an oral and written analysis of the organizations in a manner similar to the approach used in the in case studies with the addition of tools used to think critically about information you receive.  Again your team will be asked to present your analysis and recommendation to the entire class and provide the instructor with a written copy. Each team will be given thirty (30) minutes to present their analysis and answer questions from classmates. The presentation time is 15 minutes with 15 minutes available for Q&A. The same point distribution between paper and presentation will be used. Each team’s presentation will be graded by the instructor and the class.  The written analysis will constitute 70% of the value of the project and the presentation will make up 30%.


Instructor’s Expectations:
Your team will have mastered the skill of qualitative analysis, case analysis, problem statement development, alternative creation, and presentation of a thoughtful support recommendation.  In addition to the presentation the team will produce a tightly crafted written analysis, which will not exceed five (5) pages in length.  You will also be skilled in presenting a tightly crafted analysis, problem statement, set of alternatives and recommendation/observation to your peers.


Additional Instructor Expectation:
Dazzle them with your brilliance.




Point per activity

Total Points

Class Participation

100 starting point. You will lose points as you miss classes or failure to connect brain and mouth during class discussions


Individual Activities

Your view of humans and organizations papers.  40 points for each paper



Are you familiar with key concepts; check in.  Three concept exams 20 each exam


Case Studies

Two case studies. 75 points per study


Major Organization Analysis

Two books will be read by entire class in five study teams.  The Woolridge book will be an open discussion and act as a dress rehearsal for the other books.  No points are assigned to this activity.

Kehneman’s book will be read in using five study teams.  The teams will present their analysis.  This assignment is worth 170 points.

Each team will be assigned two additional books.  The analysis and presentation will be worth 230 points per book.


Total Points

Note the total is not 1,000 but your grade will be based on 1,000.




The following course guide is provided to help focus our learning activities.  The instructor reserves to right to modify the sequence or content to match the flow of the seminar.






Week One
August 29


Course plan, getting to know each other, check in on our working knowledge of organizational behavior


Course Overview
Teaching philosophy

First writing assignment

Discussion of qualitative and case analysis

Weekly activities

Week Two
September 5




Nohria, Gorysberg, and Lee


Case Study:
Day in the Life of Adam Sanders

Work through in class

Week Three
September 12



Kahneman, Lovallo, and Sibony

Katzenback and Smith

Case Study:  Terracog

Team Study and Prepare

Week Four
September 19




Govindarajan and Trimbel

Case Study:
Team Study and Prepare

Week Five
September 26




Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky
Goleman and Boyatzis


Week Six
October 3



Heifetz, Grashow and Linsky

Leader Behaviors


Week Seven
October 10





Week Eight
October 17

Organizational Design

O’Reilly and Tushman

Christensen and Overdorf


Week Nine
October 24

Masters of Management

What do we accept?  What do we reject?  How do we use good theories?

Team Presentation

Whole class works on the book in teams. Open discussion no team presentations

Week Ten
October 31

Thinking Fast and Slow

How do we decide? How can we make better decisions?

Team Presentation

Whole class works on the book in teams.  Each team presents their perspectives.

Week Eleven
November 7

Spills and Spin

The Storm

Failed organizational culture

Van Heerden
Failed government, business and not-for-profit cultures

Team Presentation

Team one Spills and Spin

Team Two Storm

Week Twelve
November 14

Need, Speed and Greed


Search for Innovation

Culture gone wrong

Team Presentation

Team Three Need

Team Four Lies

Week Thirteen
November 21

Idea Factory


In the Plex

Sustaining creativity

Cultures for high tech

Team Presentation

Team Five Idea Factory

Team One Plex

Week Fourteen
November 28

Horse Soldiers

Steve Jobs

Highly flexible organizations

Highly creative organizations

Team Presentation

Team Two Horse Soldiers

Team Three Jobs

Week Fifteen
December 5


Future of Management

Zolli and Healy
Dealing with a changing environment

Behaviors and thinking of future leaders

Team Presentation.

Team Four Resilience

Team Five Management

Turn in final paper on thoughts about humans and organizations

Finals Week
Date of final to be determined.  Exact date and place will be announced in class.




back to the top