Overheard at the Office Net Present Value (NPV) / MBA Resources

Introduction to Net Present Value (NPV) - What is Net Present Value (NPV) ? How it impacts financial decisions regarding project management?

NPV solution for Overheard at the Office case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Overheard at the Office case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by James R. Detert, Christina Black. The Overheard at the Office (referred as “Overheard Office” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Organizational Development. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Difficult conversations, Ethics, Leadership.

The net present value (NPV) of an investment proposal is the present value of the proposal’s net cash flows less the proposal’s initial cash outflow. If a project’s NPV is greater than or equal to zero, the project should be accepted.

NPV = Present Value of Future Cash Flows LESS Project’s Initial Investment

Case Description of Overheard at the Office Case Study

Note: This case contains language that some people may find offensive. It is left exactly as it was spoken in the real situation portrayed precisely because it is pertinent to how the situation affected those involved. "Overheard at the Office," based on a true story, presents the case of an African-American woman who works as an accountant for the league office of the team owners of one of the four major US professional sports. One day, she is yelled at offensively by a team owner, who mistook her for a players' union employee, perhaps because the players and their union staff are predominantly African-American, in contrast to the majority white team owners and their staff. She has to decide whether and how to respond. The case is designed to surface students' instinctive decision-making tendencies. Thus, it is short enough to be read and responded to in class. Students are assigned readings and assignments related to the case after class discussion in which they are encouraged to reflect on their initial responses. The case is quite flexible and would work in any course that deals with leadership, ethics, difficult conversations, decision-making, organizational behavior, human resources, implicit bias, and related topics. It is appropriate for a range of levels and audiences, including undergraduate, MBA, and executive education.

Case Authors : James R. Detert, Christina Black

Topic : Organizational Development

Related Areas : Difficult conversations, Ethics, Leadership

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Overheard at the Office Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10024388) -10024388 - -
Year 1 3464379 -6560009 3464379 0.9434 3268282
Year 2 3971549 -2588460 7435928 0.89 3534664
Year 3 3947374 1358914 11383302 0.8396 3314291
Year 4 3226377 4585291 14609679 0.7921 2555593
TOTAL 14609679 12672831

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2648443

In isolation the NPV number doesn't mean much but put in right context then it is one of the best method to evaluate project returns. In this article we will cover -

Different methods of capital budgeting

What is NPV & Formula of NPV,
How it is calculated,
How to use NPV number for project evaluation, and
Scenario Planning given risks and management priorities.

Capital Budgeting Approaches

Methods of Capital Budgeting

There are four types of capital budgeting techniques that are widely used in the corporate world –

1. Profitability Index
2. Net Present Value
3. Internal Rate of Return
4. Payback Period

Apart from the Payback period method which is an additive method, rest of the methods are based on Discounted Cash Flow technique. Even though cash flow can be calculated based on the nature of the project, for the simplicity of the article we are assuming that all the expected cash flows are realized at the end of the year.

Discounted Cash Flow approaches provide a more objective basis for evaluating and selecting investment projects. They take into consideration both –

1. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Overheard Office have higher preference for cash returns over 4-5 years rather than 10-15 years given the nature of the volatility in the industry.
2. Magnitude of both incoming and outgoing cash flows – Projects can be capital intensive, time intensive, or both. Overheard Office shareholders have preference for diversified projects investment rather than prospective high income from a single capital intensive project.

Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of Overheard at the Office

NPV = Net Cash In Flowt1 / (1+r)t1 + Net Cash In Flowt2 / (1+r)t2 + … Net Cash In Flowtn / (1+r)tn
Less Net Cash Out Flowt0 / (1+r)t0

Where t = time period, in this case year 1, year 2 and so on.
r = discount rate or return that could be earned using other safe proposition such as fixed deposit or treasury bond rate. Net Cash In Flow – What the firm will get each year.
Net Cash Out Flow – What the firm needs to invest initially in the project.

Step 1 – Understand the nature of the project and calculate cash flow for each year.
Step 2 – Discount those cash flow based on the discount rate.
Step 3 – Add all the discounted cash flow.
Step 4 – Selection of the project

Why Organizational Development Managers need to know Financial Tools such as Net Present Value (NPV)?

In our daily workplace we often come across people and colleagues who are just focused on their core competency and targets they have to deliver. For example marketing managers at Overheard Office often design programs whose objective is to drive brand awareness and customer reach. But how that 30 point increase in brand awareness or 10 point increase in customer touch points will result into shareholders’ value is not specified.

To overcome such scenarios managers at Overheard Office needs to not only know the financial aspect of project management but also needs to have tools to integrate them into part of the project development and monitoring plan.

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 15%

After working through various assumptions we reached a conclusion that risk is far higher than 6%. In a reasonably stable industry with weak competition - 15% discount rate can be a good benchmark.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 15 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10024388) -10024388 - -
Year 1 3464379 -6560009 3464379 0.8696 3012503
Year 2 3971549 -2588460 7435928 0.7561 3003062
Year 3 3947374 1358914 11383302 0.6575 2595462
Year 4 3226377 4585291 14609679 0.5718 1844692
TOTAL 10455719

The Net NPV after 4 years is 431331

(10455719 - 10024388 )

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 20%

If the risk component is high in the industry then we should go for a higher hurdle rate / discount rate of 20%.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 20 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10024388) -10024388 - -
Year 1 3464379 -6560009 3464379 0.8333 2886983
Year 2 3971549 -2588460 7435928 0.6944 2758020
Year 3 3947374 1358914 11383302 0.5787 2284360
Year 4 3226377 4585291 14609679 0.4823 1555930
TOTAL 9485293

The Net NPV after 4 years is -539095

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9485293 - 10024388 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Overheard Office to discount cash flow at lower discount rates such as 15%.

Acceptance Criteria of a Project based on NPV

Simplest Approach – If the investment project of Overheard Office has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Overheard Office can ACCEPT the project, otherwise they can reject the project. This means that project will deliver higher returns over the period of time than any alternate investment strategy.

In theory if the required rate of return or discount rate is chosen correctly by finance managers at Overheard Office, then the stock price of the Overheard Office should change by same amount of the NPV. In real world we know that share price also reflects various other factors that can be related to both macro and micro environment.

In the same vein – accepting the project with zero NPV should result in stagnant share price. Finance managers use discount rates as a measure of risk components in the project execution process.

Sensitivity Analysis

Project selection is often a far more complex decision than just choosing it based on the NPV number. Finance managers at Overheard Office should conduct a sensitivity analysis to better understand not only the inherent risk of the projects but also how those risks can be either factored in or mitigated during the project execution. Sensitivity analysis helps in –

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

What are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

What will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

What are the uncertainties surrounding the project Initial Cash Outlay (ICO’s). ICO’s often have several different components such as land, machinery, building, and other equipment.

Some of the assumptions while using the Discounted Cash Flow Methods –

Projects are assumed to be Mutually Exclusive – This is seldom the came in modern day giant organizations where projects are often inter-related and rejecting a project solely based on NPV can result in sunk cost from a related project.

Independent projects have independent cash flows – As explained in the marketing project – though the project may look independent but in reality it is not as the brand awareness project can be closely associated with the spending on sales promotions and product specific advertising.

References & Further Readings

James R. Detert, Christina Black (2018), "Overheard at the Office Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.