IMD International

How ASM can help an executive implement transformational change

Advanced Strategic Management alumnus discusses the program

November 13, 2014

Implementing a new management approach means adapting how one thinks, works and leads. Martti Wallin, Senior Vice President at Patria (provider of defence, security and aviation support services and technology solutions), faced this challenge in 2013 as he was tasked with integrating Lean management principles in the company.

To prepare for this challenge, Wallin decided to take part in an executive education course. Perusing the IMD web site, Wallin came across the Advanced Strategic Management (ASM) program and decided to attend as he thought it would provide him with new tools and inspiration to implement this major transformational change in his organization.

Wallin would not be disappointed. The program far surpassed his expectations as he developed new approaches to understanding what customers value as well as his own personal decision-making and leadership.

 "There was a tremendous amount of information from ASM during three weeks," he said. "I implemented learnings as soon as I concluded the program and returned back to the office at 8:00 am. Not only am I benefitting, but so too are my colleagues as I have made it a point to teach my team the different frameworks and methodologies that were introduced to me during the program."

New Approaches to Understanding Value

Case in point for the immediate impact upon return to the office was how Wallin applied the value constellation and value capture models presented during ASM. These models directly correlated to the Lean principle to understand value-added activities and waste from the customer's point of view.

"These models gave me the opportunity to better understand our customers' wants and challenge my assumptions about what value actually means to them," he said. "As soon as I got back to the office, I started to write the value constellation with my colleagues. I directly used the materials from ASM."

Related to this, Wallin was leading the transformation from a strategy of push (starts with the product) to pull (production based on consumer demand).

"This is a huge culture change," he said. "Many of the resources from ASM are enabling me to make this change happen."

Integrating "MECE" in Strategic Thinking

Implementing operational excellence requires strategic decision-making. Wallin came away from the ASM program with new perspectives on how to do this.

Professor Albrecht Enders, ASM Program Director, led a session on the acronym MECE, a grouping principle for separating a set of items that should be "mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive".

"MECE is a principle that allows you to test all of the alternatives so that you can make educated decisions," Wallin said. "I found the way Albrecht presented this to be very powerful. As an executive, you need to make decisions based on information that is available. Such tools that improve your decision-making are going to help you to lead the team and the organization."

Wallin is using this principle on a regular basis. His colleagues are also benefitting from this, as they are able to visually see all the options through the framework.

In addition to the professors in the program, Wallin was also able to exchange viewpoints with his fellow participants on how to navigate the complex business environment.

"Executives from all over the world are struggling with the same uncertainties. Reflecting on this with the other participants helped me to realize I am not alone in struggling with these issues. It also provides a valuable knowledge base."

Confidence in Leadership

Wallin came away from ASM with a new outlook on his leadership abilities thanks to sessions led by Professor Shlomo Ben-Hur. Particularly poignant was the opportunity to explore his past experiences, understand how that correlates to his current situation, and then share this with other ASM participants.

Wallin notes that this type of exchange is unique as executives don't have the opportunity to open up and share their emotions in the presence of work colleagues. Key to the process is the secure learning environment in which people are open to sharing and have the same willingness to learn. He emphasized the bonding that was formed, despite the fact that the global executives were coming from various cultures and backgrounds.

"The ASM leadership experience incorporated methods, techniques and content that I never was exposed to before," Wallin concluded. "It forced me to reflect about myself to understand who I am today and how I need to be aware of this in order to lead others. The link between my personal and professional sides of life doesn't only shape how I view myself. It also inspires how I lead others and makes me more confident as a leader. This is quite impactful."

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