Operations Management

Elizabeth Best

This teaching note accompanies the Elizabeth Best case (# 675123), which is available online from the Harvard Business School.

Who Speaks for Us?

This brief, simple case offers undergraduate and introductory graduate students an opportunity to grasp basic concepts in nonprofit management in the specific context of a social service agency's dilemma. Students must grapple not only with what to decide, but who should make the decision, and how. This is also appropriate for organizational courses in business and social work or sociology courses in theory and practice.

Donald Rumsfeld and Prisoner Abuse at Abu Ghraib

During the U.S. led war in Iraq, allegations of prisoner abuse within the Abu Ghraib prison evoked angry reactions worldwide. The ensuing events presented in this case provide students a chance to use their analytic skills in what is likely to become a classic example of leadership responsibility in a moment of crisis. Although the stakes in this case are extraordinarily high, it provides valuable lessons applicable to public management challenges at nearly any level.

Social Venture Partners' Replication

This case illuminates issues associated with the replication of nonprofit organizations and their affiliation in larger structures. The rapid success of SVP Seattle invited its replication in other cities and soon brought the question of establishing a national structure into serious consideration. The case can be used to examine the role of a "model" organization in supporting replication and to explore the critical importance of mission and values in organizational development and growth.

Washington State Department of Licensing

Helping to teach about basic issues in managing technology, this case uses one of the most common citizen experiences as the example. The Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) is trying to put vehicle tab renewals on the Internet, against a backdrop of excitement over the Internet, a governor committed to a "digital state," and a demoralized agency saddled with a recent, visible failure on a technology project.

Improving Services to Missouri's Children and Reforming the System

In the mid-1980’s, many of Missouri's children were in trouble—for a whole host of complex social, economic, educational, and health-related reasons. One of every four high school students was dropping out before graduation. Missouri ranked in the lowest third of all states in measures such as infant mortality, child death rates, single parent families, and children living in poverty. It was clear to officials and child welfare advocates alike that drastic changes in the scope and structure of children and family services were needed.

Preventing Child Abuse: The Challenge for the State Department of Social Services

Agencies charged with child protection and family preservation missions have had numerous policy and management dilemmas in recent decades, as they seek to provide protective services and also work to rehabilitate families. This case deals with a (disguised, but very real) state government social service department that is responding to legislative action following a recent child abuse death.

Technology in the Washington State Park System

This four part case examines a state agency's alignment of its information technology plan with its strategic business plan to increase accessibility of public information, simplify workloads, maximize productivity, and generate additional revenue.

Appalachian Mountain Club

The purpose of this teaching case is to analyze the challenges of organizational change in a nonprofit organization as it moves from being predominantly voluntarist to being professionally managed. How can a change process balance the needs for sound financial, governance, and program systems with long-standing strengths in volunteer leadership and service to members?

Implementing a New Drug and Alcohol Treatment Model in Sacramento County

This is an excellent case to illustrate the use of training as a leverage point to reform a service delivery system. Students also learn that training is a tool to change a service delivery system, not necessarily a catalyst for change. Training can support, but does not often drive, reform, so it would also be useful to address the bigger picture of what other leverage points might be available to achieve new service delivery goals.