Where Will They Get All The Glitter?

Soon after the final decision to consolidate the two cohorts into a single class was made last year, HBS administrators came across a crucial implementation issue that had barely come up during the earlier debate: Where were they going to get all the glitter?

All along, the plan was for preparations for the arrival of the single-cohort Class of 2003 have to draw heavily on lessons learned prior to the introduction of the two-cohort system six years ago.

But “some things are different,” conceded Professor Michael Wheeler, who will chair the Class of 2003 during its required curriculum year. “Crimson Greetings has become a much bigger deal, and the logistics of organizing that are more challenging.”

“We’ve needed to find additional space: We can’t just do it in Shad and the Bright Hockey Center, as we have for the September cohort,” said MBA Program Chair W. Carl Kester. “We also need to determine how many people can be absorbed into the program without stripping the campus” of the staff needed for other crucial tasks, like registration.

At the moment, the preparations are being led by Professor Sandra Sucher, who will be the Crimson Greetings course head, and John Korn, the director of MBA Course Services. Korn said the logistical preparations began in earnest last October, and have accelerated throughout the year.

Negotiations to obtain additional space, either by using another athletic facility across North Harvard Street from the main campus, or drawing on venues like Kresge or Spangler’s Williams and Meredith rooms are ongoing, and Korn said they will be resolved by July 1.

Meanwhile, the staff and faculty volunteers for the program are being lined up, with every HBS academic and administrative department, from LEAD to FRC and from Human Resources to Executive Education, contributing people.

In terms of supplies, Korn said Course Services is adding to its stockpile of leftover construction paper, glue, and glitter from previous years.

“We have several regular suppliers, and they love to see us coming,” he said. “We pretty much clean them out.”

To prepare on other fronts, Kester said HBS began experimenting with this year’s January cohort, trying to determine how large the different “universes” could be without interfering with the lessons the exercise is supposed to be conveying.

Sucher said the plan now is to divide the class into teams of 14 people, with five or six teams in each “universe.” Last January, teams had 12 or 13 members, and there were five in each universe.

To help streamline the data gathering process and speed the plenary sessions, Sucher said the faculty and the simulation consultant, Profitability/Business Simulations, have been considering using more technology to gather the data and distribute it quickly. She said they are also exploring ways to make the “benchmarking” step more effective by giving teams more data about the performance of other teams within their universe.

But beyond that, Sucher said the plans for this year were modest beyond ramping up to deal with the larger class. One important consideration is making sure that Crimson Greetings teams continue to become enduring social networks for HBS students.

“It’s an intense way for people to get to know each other, and we want to see that that continues, even with the larger scale,” she said. Crimson Greetings plays a role in addressing the issue of “how do we, as an institution, create some intimacy with people so they don’t feel overwhelmed by the size of the group they are a part of.”