August 2020 | 

Becoming More Strategic Leaders: Frameworks for Success

Becoming More Strategic Leaders: Frameworks for Success

One of the most common business risks is also one of the least obvious. It’s called playing it safe, business as usual, the status quo — anything to disguise what it really is: inaction. With today’s high levels of uncertainty, it can feel like the least risky direction. But standing still means you’re not ready to seize opportunities as they arise. And as COVID-19 continues to reshape and reorder the business landscape, opportunities are there.

Wharton’s strategy experts have long stressed the need for balance: getting the most out of the assets you have while working to identify new lines of business. For decades in Strategy and Management for Competitive Advantage, they have shared practical tools and insights that have made a difference for companies around the globe. Now, when the need for getting that balance right is greater than ever, they apply those tools and insights to strategy leaders' most challenging demands.

Professor Harbir Singh says the Wharton LIVE version of the program will help business leaders capitalize on changing times and move their organizations forward. “It’s important not to let the current situation slow you down. If you don’t generate the next opportunity, someone else will. And keep in mind that the velocity of change was there before COVID, and it will be there after. Having a disciplined focus on strategy will help you long term.”

Part of that disciplined focus is the use of a strategy audit, both during and after the program, to analyze current and future strategic initiatives. “The audit is grounded in systematic thinking instead of gut feelings or pet projects,” says Professor Nicolaj Siggelkow. “In times of plenty, it’s possible to have many things going at the same time. But when resources are tight, you have to be explicit about your choices. The audit will help you get a sense of strategic importance so you can make decisions about what to focus on and then drive resource allocation accordingly.”

Siggelkow also helps participants map their firm’s “system of interconnected choices,” which clearly shows core and supporting strategic initiatives and their interdependencies. “This practice gives you a better understanding of underlying trade-offs, how to prioritize resources, and how to anticipate the effects of engaging in change initiatives,” says Siggelkow. “Challenging times include opportunities, but to take advantage of them you have to know where to increase and where to decrease investments. As a leader, these tools allow you to be disciplined about your strategies, and to clearly communicate what to focus on and why.”

Strategic leadership is the focus for two days of the program. “Recently there has been a real impact on leadership in general and strategic leadership specifically,” says Singh. “Today there is a need for greater risk taking, inspirational communication, and development of other leaders. The latter is what we refer to as layered leadership. How can you create initiatives that are meant to be led by others so they can develop as strategic leaders? Coordinating the execution of multiple initiatives by different people is a necessary challenge.”

On the final day, participants will explore connected strategy with Siggelkow and Professor Christian Terwiesch, who together wrote the book on the subject. The need for this new source of competitive advantage, delivering superior customer service at a lower cost, has accelerated during the current crisis. Siggelkow says connected strategy also has importance internally, as the need to keep remote workforces connected grows.

“This is incredibly timely,” he notes. “The movement from transactions to relationships shouldn’t be happening only with your external customers. There is growing awareness that we should be thinking more systematically about the need for increased connectivity within organizations. It’s just one of the ways the content for the program has been updated to address the most current challenges.”