Purpose – To describe how a major Swiss company revitalized its organizational capabilities by using the combined know‐how of an experienced provider of executive education and the expertise of its top managers to reinvent its approach to strategy development. Design/methodology/approach – Outlines a six‐month program combining project‐based action learning in small teams with short periods of formal discussion, coaching and presentations on strategy development, implementation and associated leadership skills. Findings – Lonza is a leading international supplier to the pharmaceutical, healthcare and life science industries with a strong presence in the USA, Asia and Europe. With a large production base in Switzerland, the company was facing significant challenges in 2010 – not least because of the appreciation of the Swiss franc. And with nine independent business units operating with a high degree of autonomy, achieving a fully integrated corporate strategy with a clear set of investment priorities was, understandably, proving difficult. Lonza's senior management is mostly made up of highly qualified chemical engineers, biologists or pharmaceutical experts. Still, despite the high level of education only a small number of these experts had any formal training in strategy development, and those who had were not aligned with regards to the understanding and processes of strategy development. Practical implications – Emphasizes that whilst the University of St Gallen provided a structured strategy development process, the content of the strategy was the responsibility of program participants. Social implications – Points out that this approach ensured that participating managers owned and were committed to the resulting strategy as well as strengthening their individual capabilities. Originality/value – Highlights the value of taking a real‐time action‐learning approach to executive education and shows how this can generate immediate benefits for organizational development as well as in financial terms.
Strategic Direction – Emerald Publishing
Published: Oct 5, 2012
Keywords: Organizational development; Strategic leadership; Leadership development; Organizational structures; Organizational processes; Management effectiveness; Action learning
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