Harvard Design School                               

Strategic Management

in the Design and Construction Value System 7305

Course Description


last revised September 12, 2005


Instructor:   John D. Macomber                                    GSD 7305                    Gund Hall Room 517

Section 1:  Wednesdays 8:30 am - 10:00 am and

Section 2 (same content)   Wednesdays 11:00 am - 12:30 pm



Real estate, civil engineering, architecture, and construction together comprise the largest industry in the world.     Major social systems such as governments and marketplaces, major natural systems such as land and oceans, and major technology advances like air conditioning, internal combustion engines, silicon chips, and carbon nanotubes all rely on the designed and built environment in order to have a tangible impact.


Yet, design and construction are among the most fragmented, most risky, and least profitable of all businesses.   Why is this?  Can fragmentation and low margins be overcome?  How should leaders go about crafting strategy for firms, in the face of many conflicting desires and expectations? 


This course introduces a number of strategic planning models and encourages students to practice their application.  


Pedagogic Objectives

To provide students with the basic framework for carrying out strategic analysis and planning in a business context.    The goals are to support students in career decisions, in becoming part of the leadership team in traditional practices, and to help investigate new business opportunities.


Secondarily, many students find this course to be a useful window into the commercial world as it impacts the practice of architecture and related professions.


Finally, this course often is thought provoking for practitioners for whom it is new exposure to the implications of thinking strategically.    Insights tend to arrive at all levels: at the individual, firm, and industry scales.



The case method is used extensively.  Students read case studies of business situations, supplemented by academic and business readings, and analyze and discuss the choices and issues with the class.   The case readings are supplemented by timely readings from academic and business texts.



There are one problem set and two short papers as described in the administration section.  There is no final exam.   Contribution to class discussions is a major factor in grading.


There are no prerequisites, and no prior business education or experience is assumed.



John D. Macomber is CEO of BuildingVision, Inc., a consulting and investing firm focusing on the future of the construction industry. He is a nationally recognized thought leader on information technology and industry change in construction.   The Chairman and former CEO of the George B. H. Macomber Company, a large regional general contractor,  Mr. Macomber has also led organizations in information services, equipment rental, and real estate.  He has been teaching this course and its predecessors at MIT and Harvard since 1988.