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Curriculum

The Stanford MSx Program is a 12-month residential experience for mid- to executive-level managers.

The program’s core curriculum encompasses fundamental management concepts, supplemented with elective courses and the opportunity to follow specific interests through classes in other Stanford schools.

Preparing for the Curriculum

The required core curriculum assumes limited prior knowledge of academic business subjects. However, core courses do require a proficiency in quantitative concepts and a computer spreadsheet program. If you do not have a strong quantitative background and basic computer skills, you may wish to take a calculus or statistics course before you enroll and familiarize yourself with a spreadsheet program.

Core Courses

Accounting

One characteristic of business is the extensive use of accounting data. The financial accounting course has the general objective of developing students’ understanding of the nature, scope, and limitations of accounting information. To achieve this objective the course attempts to develop the student’s:

  • Understanding of the conceptual accounting framework, including the objectives of financial reporting
  • Ability to understand and critically evaluate the financial disclosures made by corporations

An issue of particular interest will be the managerial incentive aspects of accounting information and disclosures.

Economics

Business decision making within the firm is addressed, including:

  • Market behavior
  • Consequences of alternative market structures
  • International trade
  • Interactions between the public and private sectors
  • Basic macroeconomics, including the role of fiscal and monetary policies
Ethics

With leadership comes responsibility. This course explores the numerous ethical duties faced by managers and organizations. It combines analytical frameworks with the latest findings on human behavior to inform a wide range of ethical decisions and strategies. Readings include:

  • Case studies
  • Insights from experimental psychology and economics
  • Excerpts from or about major works of moral philosophy

Through online and in-class exercises, discussions, and personal reflection, you will reveal and assess your ethical intuitions, compare them with more explicit modes of ethical thought, and learn how to use ethics in business settings. A diverse set of ethical viewpoints will be considered with an emphasis on not only their implications for ethical behavior but also on the social and cognitive pitfalls that undermine the ability of business leaders to fulfill their ethical duties.

Finance

The foundations of corporate finance are used to analyze many of the important financial decisions made within firms and other institutions. Topics include:

  • The valuation of fixed-income securities and stocks
  • Capital budgeting and the choice of investment projects
  • The optimal capital structure of the firm
  • Leveraged buyouts
  • Hostile takeovers
  • Private equity financing and venture capital
  • Financial distress

Through cases and discussions of topical issues, the course provides an opportunity to analyze practical financial situations and problems. The course is applied, but within a rigorous theoretical framework.

Competitive Strategy

Frameworks are presented for:

  • Strategy identification and evaluation
  • Assessing industry attractiveness
  • Evaluating the firm’s capabilities, resources, and position
  • Determining the optimal horizontal and vertical scope of the firm
  • Entering into strategic alliances and joint ventures
  • Formulating and implementing strategy in multi-business organizations

Case studies — of a variety of companies of differing size, industry, and current conditions — provide the basis for the comprehensive analysis and establishment of a strategic management approach for the multi-national, multi-business organization.

Marketing Management

The focus is on strategic decisions necessary to match organizational resources and objectives with market opportunities. The coursework mirrors the stages involved in developing a marketing plan:

  • Understanding the market, including consumer, competitor, and company analysis
  • Implementing the marketing plan, including market selection, positioning, product, price, promotion, and distribution

Negotiations

Designed to improve your skills in all phases of a negotiation, this course addresses the understanding of prescriptive and descriptive negotiation theory as it applies to:

  • Dyadic and multiparty negotiations
  • Buyer-seller transactions and the resolution of disputes
  • Development of negotiation strategy
  • The management of integrative and distributive aspects of the negotiation process

The course is based on a series of simulated negotiations in a variety of contexts including one-on-one, multiparty, and team negotiations. You can use this course to expand your repertoire of conflict management and negotiation skills, to hone your skills, and to become more adept in choosing when to apply each skill.

Operations

This course focuses on basic managerial issues arising in the operations of both manufacturing and service industries. The objectives of the course are to familiarize students with the problems and issues confronting operations managers and to introduce language, conceptual models, and analytical techniques that are broadly applicable in confronting such problems. The spectrum of different process types used to provide goods and services is developed and then examined through methods of process analysis and design.

Organizational Behavior

Fellows are introduced to the structures and processes that affect group performance as well as some of the common pitfalls associated with working in teams. Topics include:

  • Understanding team culture
  • Fostering creativity and coordination
  • Making group decisions
  • Dealing with a variety of personalities

Students will participate in a number of group exercises designed to illustrate principles of team work and to give students practice diagnosing team problems and taking action to improve team performance.

Strategy Beyond Markets

Managerial issues in the social, political, legal, and ethical environment of business are addressed. Cases and reading emphasize strategies to improve the performance of companies in light of their multiple constituencies. Cases are set in both the U.S. and non-U.S. environments and illustrate how managers are called upon to interact with the public and governments in local, national, and international settings. Topics include:

  • Integrated strategy
  • Activists and the media
  • Legislation affecting business
  • Regulation and antitrust
  • Intellectual property
  • Internet privacy
  • International trade policy
  • Ethics
Data and Decisions

As a manager, you must constantly make decisions that affect your organization, employees, customers, partners and society. Relying only on instinct becomes problematic as these decisions become more complex and the stakes get higher. Understanding how data and analysis can be used effectively (and ineffectively) in the decision-making process will help senior managers identify poor analysis, and will eventually help you develop better instincts.

Data and decisions covers statistical methods used in business and the social sciences, with an eye toward helping managers understand the concepts that underlie different types of analysis.

Negotiations

The ability to negotiate is such an important managerial and leadership skill that it is easy to forget how often you use it. Getting anything done in organizations and markets requires negotiation, and leaders must use it to implement their agenda. Our students learn about negotiation strategy, based on research rather than common perceptions, and have the opportunity to practice utilizing their strategies in a variety of managerial contexts.

Organization Design

As a senior manager, you will not only lead others, but you will also have the opportunity to create the context in which others lead and implement your organization’s goals. How can you be sure that hundreds, or even thousands, of people are aligned? How can you avoid duplication, conflict, and unintended consequences as an organization grows? Drawing from sociology and organizational sciences, this course evaluates how social systems evolve and perform in different contexts. Students refine their understanding of the levers that leaders have to influence organizational goals (innovation, risk taking, cost control, market responsiveness, etc.).

Organizational Behavior

At the micro level, you want to understand how individuals are most likely to respond to your actions and leadership behaviors. How should leaders influence those around them? How can they more effectively communicate? How can they know that their actions are having the intended consequences? This course focuses on long-standing and emerging findings from social-psychology to help our students assess their own leadership strengths, as well as focus their development on the areas that can have the greatest impact.

Electives

Personalize Your Experience

With more than 100 elective courses offered each year, you’ll have ample opportunity to tailor your academic experience to meet your personal career goals and needs. The breadth and quality of elective courses is a key advantage at Stanford GSB.

  • Faculty research is integrated into Stanford GSB elective courses, giving students exposure to these fresh ideas before they begin to have an impact on society at large.
  • Elective courses employ diverse learning tools and address a wide range of topics, such as effective leadership, global economics and supply chains, financial markets, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and social responsibility.
  • Some electives are cross-disciplinary, mixing resources from the business school with other parts of Stanford University such as the schools of law or medicine, interdisciplinary programs in environment and resources, and public policy.

Elective offerings and schedules are adjusted each year, so enrollment in any class is not guaranteed.