Johan Slotte: EMBA assignment turns strategy into action at Teleste Video Networks

"It's a great feeling to have turned an idea into reality, but the work's not over yet." That's how Johan Slotte, IMD EMBA 2002, described his company's acquisition of S-Link; a strategy identified and developed during his Strategic Initiative assignment at IMD. "It was a crucial value creating initiative for Teleste Video Networks," says Johan.

Real-life scenario
The Strategic Initiative Assignment takes participants through a rigorous assessment of industry (external) factors, company (internal) factors, and competitor scenarios. These lead to a real-life strategic initiative for their firm, complete with an analysis of value creation potential, and an approach for overcoming implementation gaps, which can exist both in terms of capabilities and willingness. Looking at market trends and talking to his customers, it was clear to Johan, then Senior VP of Development for Teleste, and General Manager of the Video Networks group, that Teleste needed to have management software capabilities in order for the business to thrive in the future.

Pinpointing key issues
Teleste is a leader in video surveillance systems: intelligent traffic systems and city center and urban surveillance for security. Johan identified that the hardware side of the business, where Teleste has traditionally excelled, is likely to become more of a commodity business, while the real margins and value in the chain will move to management software and integrated solutions. He pinpointed the issue: Teleste had the brand and the customer relationships, but not the solutions that would be needed in future. S-Link had the capabilities to build those solutions, but didn't have the reputation or brand to build its business.

"The strategic initiative assignment was key. I had been thinking about what we could do to capture more of the value chain in our business, and I realized that one option might be an acquisition. The discipline of the assignment crystallized my ideas and pressed me to understand how best to integrate them into the company. Once I had identified what our company needed to be able to offer, it was the assignment's emphasis on understanding implementation gaps that pushed me into realizing that an acquisition was the right way to go, and S-Link was a great fit."

Paul Strebel, IMD Professor of Change Management, guides Johan through the Strategic Initiative Assignment. "So often, in our work with managers, we see that there is no shortage of ideas, but frequently the ideas never turn into anything. One of our goals in the Executive MBA program is to make sure that our executives go beyond great ideas. That they know how to implement those ideas in a way that delivers great results. Understanding the implementation gaps - what it takes to get from where you are to where you want to be - is one way to make sure your initiatives get somewhere."

EMBA fits the bill
Johan Slotte was a great fit for IMD's EMBA program, because of his hunger to learn and to apply his learning. He decided long ago that it was important for learning to be lifelong, and every four years or so, he takes on a new learning challenge, with the most recent being the EMBA at IMD. "I looked forward to the program as a way to update my thinking, and the EMBA really fit the bill. The program is great for showing you how to approach issues from new perspectives, for sharpening how you structure and process your ideas and insisting on implementation. The combination of theoretical learning and practical application was ideal for my development. I don't look for solutions as such, but more for opportunities I can develop and execute."

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