- IMD Business School
News Stories · Strategy

Evoking winning performance

The NCC team experience: Q&A with Martin Manthorpe
June 2011

Every business knows that a winning performance takes more than individual excellence: it requires teamwork. That’s why IMD’s Orchestrating Winning Performance (OWP) program is popular with organizations that want one of their teams to take control of a particular strategic problem, to develop shared ideas or to grow bonds of common understanding – all while benefiting from the program’s networking and learning opportunities.

One business benefiting from the OWP combination of the latest management teaching and tailored team sessions is NCC Construction Denmark, one of the leading construction and property development companies in the Nordic region. Here Martin Manthorpe, the head of strategy and business development at NCC in Denmark, discusses why he has taken teams to OWP.

Q: How did you hear about OWP?

A: My President/Managing Director Torben Biilmann, who had been to IMD before, introduced me to Professor Bala Chakravarthy. Bala and I discussed how we could create a program that was tailored to NCC’s needs – in the direction that Torben wanted to take the company – while still tapping into the strength and impulse of IMD. That’s when we came up with the idea of joining the main OWP program and adding two workshops in the afternoon that were only for NCC people.

Q: Who did you send?

A: We first sent a small group of our eight most senior managers. We found it so useful that in returning for the program we expanded the group of attendees to also include the most important middle managers. It meant that there were about 25 of us in total.

Q: What were the most valuable benefits of the program?

A: We came to IMD having talked about our strategies and developed an action plan of, I think, 25 different things that we as top managers had to do. By participating in OWP and working with Bala we were able to narrow that down to just two things. IMD really helped us to cut out the hot air, focus on the core and bring all our management energy to focus on those two key areas. So, you could say that we came to IMD with a common vision of where we wanted to be, but participating in OWP as a group helped us to focus on finding the fastest way to get there. The next time we came, the task was a bit different. We had the strategy nailed down, so the goal became more about bringing the middle managers into our mindset. On both occasions it was also an opportunity for individual managers to network, to be inspired by IMD’s professors and other participants, and to reflect on their own professional development.

Q: You have been to OWP twice now. What keeps bringing you back?

A: You mean why not go to a “local” summer house in Denmark for four days rather than bringing everyone to Switzerland? There has to be something special about OWP to bring us here. IMD’s setting certainly does that, but when deciding whether coming to OWP is a good idea, I ask myself three questions: Does this benefit NCC as a company? Does it make sense for us as a team? And will it add to the competences of the individual managers who come? For us, the answer has been yes to all three.

Q: How do you evaluate the impact of the program?

A: This is a tricky question. It’s not possible to link participation directly to the bottom line using a spreadsheet, but experienced managers can tell whether or not an approach makes sense for the team and for the company. Could we have done well without OWP, without IMD? Yes, probably. But could we have done the great things that we are doing now without it? Probably not.

Q: What was the most enjoyable aspect?

A: One thing that’s easy to forget is the importance of your surroundings – do they give people the feeling that there is room here for reflection, for considering things. It’s not a feeling that you can get on a rainy day in Copenhagen! IMD’s facilities and grounds are wonderful. The other important thing about OWP is that it gives team members the freedom to choose from a variety of sessions, so it allows them to build on their own particular interests while also helping them to feel that they are there as part of a team that needs to solve a particular task. It’s like playing football for Barcelona: they are all fantastic at what they do individually, but it is the way that they work together that means they win matches.

Q: Are there still plenty of networking opportunities if you come as a group?

A: Yes. In any group of 25 people, some will be more extroverted than others. Those managers found it inspiring to be able to meet business people from abroad and to discuss what is on managers’ agendas in China and Africa. At the same time, more introverted people could enjoy being at a place like IMD while still knowing that they would maintain a comfort zone with the NCC group of Danish people.

Q: Do you have any advice for other teams coming to OWP?

A: Preparation is everything. You need to be focused on what you want to achieve as a team. It may only be four days at IMD but getting the most out of that time takes a lot of hours of preparation, and follow-up work when you come home. Finally, if I may, some advice for IMD: when we first came it was quite difficult for me as a customer to change the OWP program to meet the needs of my group, because our workshops had to fit into the wider schedule. But we did succeed, largely because Professor Bala gave us so much help. I encourage IMD’s faculty to engage in close relationships with companies and for managers interested in OWP to take the time to benefit from this resource. The personal interaction between Bala, Torben, and I was very important, especially at the beginning. It also allowed for a second time at OWP even more focused on our goals than the first.

Find out more about IMD’s Orchestrating Winning Performance program.