What I love about my job is affecting change. I love seeing the organisation change and I love creating assets that are surprising for our customers. I love the fact that at Mirvac we’re constantly challenging ourselves to think about how we can redefine the urban landscape and create more sustainable, connected and vibrant urban environments, leaving a legacy for generations to come.
MBA Alumnus and Mirvac CEO, Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, explains how a successful long-term training partnership with INSEAD is helping to drive her business to the next level.
Please tell us a little about yourself and your role.
I am CEO and Managing Director of Mirvac, a leading Australian property group that’s listed as an ASX 50 company. We are principally located in Sydney and Melbourne, with a footprint in Brisbane and Perth. We own and manage assets across the office, retail and industrial sectors, with over $15 billion of assets currently under management.
What are your main challenges when it comes to improving your organisation’s strategic agility?
One of the challenges of an established, successful company is that you tend to fall back on the tried and tested ways of doing things. What we want to do instead is to push ourselves to think differently – to develop an institutional methodology for constantly challenging our strategic objectives. That way, we’re better able to spot opportunities for creating new sources of value.
To build that culture of constant innovation, we need to cultivate our executive leaders’ strategic skills. That’s where training and development programmes come in.
Why did you choose INSEAD to help you address your challenges?
I have been involved with INSEAD since I did my MBA at the Fontainebleau campus in 1993–94. It changed my life; I could not have achieved what I have in my career without it. I have been an active member of the alumni community ever since. Not only that, every single person I know who has been to INSEAD – whether through an executive education programme or an MBA – has had a profoundly positive experience. So INSEAD is an organisation I trust, and one that I know adds value – something that’s very important when you are looking to make a significant investment in training.
You chose to develop customised training for your executives, rather than go for an open programme. Why did you choose this approach?
In order to develop the innovation culture I mentioned, we decided we needed something tailored to our specific objectives as a firm. So three years ago, one of the first things I did as CEO was to approach INSEAD about developing a customised approach for our executive leadership team and the next level down, based on INSEAD’s Blue Ocean Strategy programme.
In what way was the Blue Ocean Strategy programme relevant to your strategy goals?
One of the profound things about the Blue Ocean programme is that it encourages you to think from the customer’s perspective – not about the nice things your company can do for them, but more what they really value and will pay for. That was the starting point we wanted for our people, to help them think differently and look through our customer’s eyes.
Can you describe the process of development you went through with INSEAD to create this customised programme?
When we first sat down with INSEAD, we told faculty that we wanted to focus on strategy and culture, and to design a programme around that. Then we spent a lot of time discussing our objectives as a company, the challenges we were facing, the type of people we had and what kind of methodology would work for INSEAD to be able to deliver something very powerful.
We really appreciated that INSEAD took such pains to understand our requirements. The focus was not ‘This is what we’ve got’, but more ‘How can we tailor what we have to suit your exact needs and the people that you have in place and where you are in your journey?’
Since that initial experience, we have gone on to deliver more versions of the programme to our people. We expanded out from training the leadership team to the next level down in the organisation, eventually reaching 150 people.
What was your overall impression of the quality of the programme content and faculty? Were your expectations met?
My expectations were high, precisely because my previous experience has been so positive. Every time I engage with INSEAD, I expect the training to be world-best – thoughtful, provocative and well delivered. I expect it to have an impact on what participants can do with their careers and what they can do for our customers. So I set a high bar, but I also have to say that INSEAD has never let me down yet.
Every time we have interacted with INSEAD, whether through online training or one-on-one sessions, the quality has been outstanding. We have even had faculty deliver content over Skype, and that is not easy when it’s a crowd of a hundred people – but it was carried off exceptionally well. I really could not speak more highly of the programme content and the INSEAD faculty.
How would you say your customised version of Blue Ocean has benefitted the organisation?
I think the Blue Ocean Strategy programme was really the start of a whole innovation journey for Mirvac. We have taken the concepts that are behind Blue Ocean and put them into a programme that we call Hatch, our innovation programme. We have now trained 46 Hatch champions in our methodology around innovation, which very much follows some of the Blue Ocean principles, particularly around customers, lean start-up, minimum viable product – all those kinds of concepts around innovation are embedded in the organisation.
For example, people will often come along to a meeting that is not specifically about innovation or about Blue Ocean and they will say, ‘Let’s think about this from the customer’s pain point’, or ‘Let’s think about what is the customer’s job to be done here’. So, everyday life at Mirvac is now being shaped by thinking through things from an innovation customer’s perspective, and that is due to the executive training that we have been doing with INSEAD.
If we had not had that, I think we would be less equipped to think strategically as an organisation. We would be less able to think in an innovative way and we would not have as sharp a focus on our customer and how they are thinking.
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