Transform Your Executives—and Your Organization
Harvard Business School works with a select group of companies to strengthen the leadership capacity of their executives and their organizations. Starting at the CEO level, these companies share the desire to develop a long-term, multifaceted relationship with the School. HBS has developed and conducted custom programs for a wide range of organizations, including well-established companies, high-growth businesses, and major nonprofits.
Custom programs can be developed to help executives build capabilities for addressing any management challenge—organizational leadership, change leadership, customer management, service excellence, innovation, technology, competitive strategies, or other areas of concern. No matter the issues at hand, past client companies can attest to the power of a value-adding educational partnership with HBS.
After a leading consumer products company consolidated its North American activities under one leadership, the chairman and CEO wanted to work with HBS to create a platform and process for introducing the new management strategy to its top 300 business leaders. A two-month development process included:
- In-depth discussions with key members of the management team, idea generation, design, feedback, and refinement helped to facilitate the implementation of the change initiative.
- The core themes—integration management, company values, leadership and change management, and action planning—rallied all leaders around supporting the company's new direction.
- The entire rollout included six two-and-a-half-day sessions over a two-year period, with 50 to 60 leaders attending each session; leaders were engaged in case studies, brief lectures, and group discussions.
- The faculty team created a workshop environment to encourage open dialogue and enable leaders to collaborate on applying the program's concepts, tools, and approaches to their specific challenges.
- The chairman/CEO's involvement in all program activities signaled top-level commitment to developing leaders who would be poised to implement the necessary change.
By reinforcing the entire change initiative, the company is accelerating a shared sense of direction among its leaders. Past participants say they have a better understanding of the company's new strategy and values, as well as greater insight into implementing change as a business team. The School is developing a case study that spotlights the company's strategic and organizational progress, and some leaders are planning to attend open-enrollment Executive Education programs that address related issues.
Several years ago, one of the world's largest industrial companies approached Harvard Business School for help in changing its corporate strategy to become a global leader in natural gas and electricity. The company wanted a broad-based executive development program for its senior leaders to support this strategy change.
- The program included faculty from HBS and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government as well as industry experts.
- Working with top company leaders, they developed a program that addressed critical issues, such as managing in regulated and deregulated environments; corporate governance and the role of the corporate center and business units; and leadership, culture, and values.
- Selected company leaders participated in a customized course on finance for senior executives, and many have attended key open-enrollment programs on campus.
- A case has been written about the firm and is used in both custom programs and the MBA program.
A large financial services institution asked HBS to develop an executive leadership program for its top 250 executives. The firm had a history of strong earnings, but needed to find new ways to drive growth in an increasingly competitive global environment. The CEO hoped to increase the firm's strategic agility by enhancing its executives’ ability to drive business performance and boost innovation.
- Following a collaborative needs’ assessment process with the company, a program was created that focused on three key themes:
- Strategic thinking—analyzing the market, determining strategic direction, and sustaining success over time in the face of competitive threats.
- Service excellence—nurturing loyal customers and setting the marketplace standard for quality and value.
- Leadership—helping participants understand the role of leadership and leadership styles in creating effective organizations.
- Conducted over one year, the five-day curriculum included a customized case study based on a recent acquisition and integration completed by the company, as well as a "lifeline" exercise focused on key people and formative events in their lives.
Both the participants and the CEO are building relationships and opening channels of communication. As a result of the program, participants report significant gains in strategic insights and leadership skills, along with an enhanced network of professional peers.
One of the largest information technology and services companies in the world decided to revamp its strategic planning process. They wanted to place individual general managers in charge of the work, challenge them to link strategy directly to specific issues, and execute their action plans. The firm's Corporate Strategy Senior VP asked the School to create a program that would help senior executives to develop their strategic leadership skills.
- A curriculum was designed that was geared toward the firm's new approach to strategy and that outlined a plan to drive new learning across the organization. Each program opened with a day on strategy, focusing on marketplace insight and business design.
- The following days were dedicated to understanding change and innovation, and applying the lessons learned to the firm's own issues. Participants spent a total of 17 hours in team breakouts applying what they learned to the key business issues central to their team's success.
- The use of technology-based learning tools in the program has enabled the firm to extend and deepen the learning to an entire generation of leaders who now embrace the strategy planning process and focus fully on successful execution
The Corporate Strategy leadership group believes that the powerful combination of executive education and real-time application has accelerated learning, enabling leaders to have a common understanding of strategy, to approach issues with the same structured process, and to communicate using the same vocabulary.
As one of the cornerstones of its ongoing management development program, a major investment institution looked to HBS to develop a customized strategic leadership program that would help senior executives develop the business decision-making and leadership skills required for success.
- The firm's CFO served as the executive sponsor of the program and worked with the faculty to create a curriculum designed to build competencies in two critical areas: executing strategy and delivering results.
- Participants gained knowledge and built their skills at the beginning of the six-day program, and then began to apply their learning to a real-life initiative within the firm.
- Project teams were assigned the task of developing a recommendation on how to implement the initiative to maximize value for both customers and the corporation.
Throughout the week, faculty coaches and the company’s HR staff assessed both team and individual performance. This led to the creation of an individualized development plan for each participant.
The School has been working with a large international pharmaceutical firm since the mid 1990s when company leaders and faculty planned the firm's first executive forum. The program was designed to help the organization create alignment and develop an effective company culture following a major merger.
- The CFO identified a need to educate and expand the perspective of managers in the finance and business planning functions of the firm.
- Faculty worked with the CFO and his team to develop a program that would help managers drive business goals and work in partnership with the unit's general manager.
- A parallel program for nonfinancial managers was created to introduce the key elements of corporate finance.
- A second executive forum focused on helping the company accelerate growth and targeted senior executives from each of the company's major operating groups. Key themes included:
- Exploring advances in technology
- Examining partnerships
- Building alliances
- Specific action-learning projects allowed executives to develop and test new business ideas that have subsequently been brought forward at the business unit or corporate level for further analysis and seed funding.
Harvard Business School has continued to work closely with the firm. A third-generation executive forum has recently been launched, with the focus on leadership challenges facing the company and its managers. The CEO continues to participate personally in every program session.
Venture Capital/Private Equity
A later-stage venture capital firm selected HBS to create an education and networking forum to help company owners and management teams achieve their strategic and financial goals. This opportunity to view business through the lens of general management is intended to strengthen the leadership capacity of these high-caliber portfolio companies. The program concentrates on the processes that are central to portfolio companies and on their highest-priority business issues as identified in a survey of company CEOs.
- The entrepreneurial and multidisciplinary expertise of the faculty team provides a sound understanding of what is involved in launching and building new ventures, as well as an approach for managing these opportunities over time.
- Focusing on different stages within the entrepreneurial lifecycle, the theme of the second module—profitable growth and scaling—built upon the first module, which covered assessing opportunities and building new business models.
- The high-energy atmosphere fosters learning on three levels—individual, small group, and classroom.
- Through case studies, interactive presentations, and informal group discussions, participants explore new ideas, share innovations and strategies, and develop invaluable peer networks.
The result is a win-win-win. Portfolio companies develop highly effective management teams for enhanced competitiveness, while the sponsoring venture capital firm reaps the rewards of continued business growth and greater shareholder value. Faculty also benefit from exposure to new case development opportunities with entrepreneurial companies.