Turkcell and IMD co-create a unique custom program: Turbocharging a digital business transformation
Turkcell is Turkey’s leading telecom service provider, with operations also in Ukraine, Belarus and Northern Cyprus. Between 2015 and 2018, the company transformed itself from a network operator selling undifferentiated data and voice services into a digital operator providing messaging, music, TV, search and other services to its customers.
In 2015, Turkcell faced challenges that threatened its leading position in mobile communications in Turkey, including the upcoming move from 3G to 4.5G networks and increasing competition from over-the-top (OTT) suppliers such as WhatsApp. In response, Turkcell began transforming itself from a network operator to a digital operator, which included organization and culture changes, investments to upgrade the network, offering digital services and digitalizing the company. By early 2017, it was clear that the company’s 80 directors (direct reports to executive committee members) were struggling to keep up given the pace and extent of change within the organization.
Turkcell needed to transform itself to respond to this threat, but the organization was complex and top-heavy, which hindered its ability to change quickly.
The Turkcell Global Leadership Program, which was delivered to 143 directors and director successors between July 2017 and February 2018 while the transformation was in progress, equipped the company’s leadership to pursue the journey and spread a common understanding across the company of what it would look like. Program director Professor Tawfik Jelassi, IMD Professor of Strategy and Technology Management, who had faced turbulence as a minister of higher education, scientific research and ICT in Tunisia in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, played a key role in this.
The Global Leadership Program created a common vision among the company’s leadership of its transformation journey. The tools and frameworks that participants learned to use during the sessions gave them a common mindset. Concepts such as the digital vortex became part of their shared vocabulary and were used across the organization to discuss Turkcell’s challenges. Over time, program participants introduced their teams to the tools and frameworks they had learned throughout the program, so this common vocabulary and mindset became even more widespread across the organization.