HBS Winning Team Advocates Individual Business Unit Performance at AOL Time Warner

Lisa Diane Bourne (OE), Tjada P. D’Oyen (OD), Sitella A. Glenn (OI) and Panya Lei Yarber (OC) recently won a Goldman-sponsored contest that asked students to examine the challenges facing AOL Time Warner and to devise a strategy for the incoming chief executive, Dick Parsons.

Beating teams from Dartmouth and Yale, the HBS team’s recommendation was that “each [AOL TW] business unit should focus on being best in class,” working to increase its own profitability rather than concentrating too much on cross-divisional synergies. Under the Harvard plan, corporate headquarters would set financial targets and direct lobbying activity, but each division would essentially try to improve its own profitability in its own way.

John A. Thain, a Goldman co-chief operating officer who was one of the judges yesterday, said that Harvard’s victory “was based on the quality of the presentation and the quality of the analysis and how innovative it was.”