You see things you haven’t seen before or that you might have taken for granted. The Strategy Execution Programme made me really rethink corporate politics, and the difficulties we all have in breaking with old strategies or old behaviours that are no longer fit for purpose.
Gerrit Jan Konijnenberg is an International (IDP-C) Director. His 20-year career has seen him enjoy leadership and advisory positions across a slew of top telecoms companies across Northern Europe and the Nordics. Currently Director of Strategic Development with Telenor Maritime, he is also a Non-Executive Director with RoamsysNext, a software-as-a-service provider for mobile operators, and Advisor to the Board of the Mobile Ecosystem Forum. But Gerrit is also a successful entrepreneur in his own right, having co-founded for example Cellusys IoT.
With leadership experience both within multinational corporations and at the helm of his own venture, Gerrit Jan Konijnenberg was nonetheless perplexed by a singular question – a conundrum – that brought him to INSEAD back in 2014.
He explains it like this: “Throughout my career and particularly in the entrepreneurial aspects of my life, I have been successful. But I’ve never been 100% sure of why – of what it is that makes someone successful at what they do. I was looking for a lens through which to understand the dynamics of innovation, and why some strategies work well in certain contexts and others not so well – what other companies and leaders do to drive success in their organisations.
”For me -as a leader- combining empathy and emotional capabilities with rational industry insights was a natural way of leadership, but during the INSEAD journey I experienced why.”
This curiosity around strategy led him initially to two INSEAD programmes: Blue Ocean Strategy and Competitive Strategy. Then in 2017, he embarked on the INSEAD Strategy Execution Programme (SEP): a learning experience that he felt could bring together the different strands of his understanding and give him deeper insight into the implementation part of the dynamic.
“My experience with INSEAD had already consolidated my belief in the school and taking a third programme here of course also meant that I was eligible for the INSEAD Certificate in Global Management, which also gave me the possibility to become an alumnus.”
Participating in the Strategy Execution Programme would also provide him with a “useful framework” for strategy implementation – a framework he could use within his organisation and which would add value to his work as board advisor or NED. Above all, he was keen to unpack the dynamics of execution that meant that one strategy will be successful over another.
“I was looking for a practicable toolset that I could really put to use – among these tools, the means to work out whether a strategy is really viable or not. The Strategy Execution Programme really added value in this sense, giving me greater clarity around things like long-term competitive edge and alignment – simple questions that we often don’t ask.”
The programme also shed light on critical elements of execution, among them things like human capital, budgeting, the importance of having a continuous learning orientation, and the “hidden traps of implementation” that can derail strategy implementation: obvious things, says Gerrit, that the SEP programme nonetheless helps you reframe, or see more clearly when you go back into the workplace.
“You see things you haven’t seen before or that you might have taken for granted. The Strategy Execution Programme made me really rethink corporate politics, and the difficulties we all have in breaking with old strategies or old behaviours that are no longer fit for purpose.”
One of the key takeaways of the SEP programme was around change leadership, and how authentic leadership integrates both analytical and emotional intelligence, he adds. Here, intensive coaching sessions with guided role plays really unearthed the importance of asking “the right questions”, and listening to the answers.
“Leaders very often take shortcuts because we don’t listen fully – we think we hear something or we hear what we want to hear. But we need to be purposeful too about surfacing real information to implement strategy and lead change effectively.”
The Strategy Execution Programme is a challenge, says Gerrit. It is an intensive, international learning experience that exposes participants to a true diversity of perspectives and expertise from different industries and organisations. This collective learning journey creates bonds and ties that endure beyond the programme.
“As Co-Chair of the INSEAD Strategy Execution Graduates Association, I innitiated a 3-day class reunion recently in the historic settings of St- Emilion, to share how all SEP Graduates implemented the learnings from the programme which was hugely inspiring. We have created a safe environment where we can interchange experiences, ideas and insights with online participation of the SEP professors and leadership team. The cases presented by the graduates gave a double loup learning experience of what worked well and what not during strategy execution. Almost all presented cases dealt with the challenges of Covid-19 in our organisations and new strategic solutions needed for a more sustainable - CO2 neutral - future!”
Beyond the curriculum, cases and the interaction with thought-leading faculty, the Strategy Execution Programme encourages this kind of deep reflection and the development of soft skills – the drawing out of diverse ideas – that are so critical to leaders who need to enact changes, says Gerrit Jan Konijnenberg. It is a learning experience that “challenges you to develop your softskills to better manage strategy implemention processes.”
“This is a learning and life journey that is really different to any other. It is truly special.”