April 2014 | 

Strategic Planning and Execution in an Uncertain World

Strategy and Execution

Setting business strategy used to be as simple as defining what the organization wanted to achieve and then laying out the steps to get there. Management used this plan to set priorities, allocate resources, assess operations, align employees, and satisfy stakeholders. But today, executives face a complex and competitive world that can defy all forecasts. According to Pedro Videla, professor of economics at the IESE Business School, the fast-paced, continual challenges interfere with their ability to formulate clear strategies, or know whether those strategies are being executed well, because they are too busy reacting.

“One day, they are facing challenges from competition in Asia. The next day it could be new technology that threatens to disrupt their business model. The following day they find their e-commerce website doesn’t work on mobile platforms,” says Videla. “These are difficult situations, which are then compounded by the macroeconomic impact of emerging markets, global demographic shifts, and income inequality within and across countries.”

Videla and Wharton Professor Karl Ulrich are faculty directors of a new joint IESE-Wharton Executive Education program designed to give senior executives a unique strategic and global perspective — and the operational tactics needed to achieve business goals. Business Strategy & Operational Execution: Bridging the Divide enables participants to draw insights from across their organization and read cues from the global environment, gaining a better understanding of the interlocking factors that influence and complement one another in creating value.

The Wharton School and IESE Business School have joined forces to present this one-of-a-kind program, which combines execution, operational excellence, and change management, all with a decidedly global mindset. The program offers distinct advantages by design, says Ulrich, Wharton professor of operations and information management. “Our intent in joining with IESE is to provide global market insights and hands-on experiences that span geography, academic perspectives, and pedagogical methods. The inclusion of a competitive business simulation along with visits to best-of-breed companies, faculty experts, and relevant speakers ensures that the theory participants learn can be readily put into practice.”

The two-week program takes a coast-to-coast journey, beginning with a residential module at Wharton | San Francisco and then moving to the New York Center of the IESE Business School. A break between the two weeks provides the time and space for participants to apply and reflect on their new business knowledge.

The combined impact of the two locations, two business schools, and dual focus on strategy and operational execution is intended to develop in participants the enhanced ability to translate strategy into action and lead change across diverse units within their organization. “They will come to better understand the relationship between elements of their organization’s operations and its financial performance, along with the operational levers most likely to develop advantage,” Ulrich says. “This will expand their abilities to identify and create opportunities for performance improvement and to develop metrics of performance for monitoring progress.”

Ultimately, says Videla, “We want to give participants the tools and frameworks for identifying all the challenges they face in today’s changing business environment so they can develop effective strategies and apply them in day-to-day operations. We are bridging the gap between two essential elements for organizations — strategy and operational execution.”