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Executive Education

Erika Tavares Milles SEP
Erika Tavares Milles SEP
Strategy Execution Programme

Strategy Execution Programme: Where Strategy Success Starts From the People

Erika Tavares Milles

Strategy Specialist, Flow Control and Advanced Technologies at RHI Magnesita

We fail a lot on strategy development because we push out initiatives to meet the company’s ambition and do not balance them with the people's environment, culture, and emotions.

Throughout Erika’s career, she has transitioned between roles, harnessing her expertise in strategy, project management, and digital transformation, among others. With an extensive experience of approximately 17 years in the oil and gas industry, she moved to RHI Magnesita, the leading global supplier of high-grade refractory products, systems, and solutions.

Today, as strategy advisor for RHI Magnesita’s business unit, Flow Control and Advanced Technologies, Erika works closely with the different product leaders to define their strategies and ensure their business strategies dovetail with the company’s long-term vision.

When she first joined, one of the key projects was to advise a digital product development:

“There was a strong product definition, and the execution was driven in a way they believed was right — but without a strong involvement of the internal and external clients.”

Fast-forward to today, and the processes are run significantly differently.

“The most important change is that we go step by step to understand who we must involve and what barriers exist. We listen to our stakeholders first and work to gain their support and sponsorship. We consider their needs, emotions and triggers when we deploy our solutions and adapt the communication strategy for each internal customer. This has been a game changer.”

These changes, Erika says, were reinforced by the knowledge she gained during the INSEAD Strategy Execution Programme.

“INSEAD was an aspiration for me for a long time. But between moving from Brazil to France and becoming the mother of two little ones, I postponed my dream until I could join a full program instead of a one-week course.”

In 2022, a long-awaited opportunity presented itself — the Strategy Execution Programme. This programme aligned perfectly with Erika's criteria. Besides its emphasis on strategy, it is also structured into multiple modules spread out over a year. This allowed Erika to fully immerse herself in the INSEAD learning environment while remaining in her full-time job.

Erika Sep Classmates 2


Practical learning brings valuable insights

Beyond the technical knowledge, Erika benefited immensely from the practical classroom activities and discussions. One especially memorable incident was when her team was asked to support a participant with his project challenges.

Just minutes before, they had been practicing their coaching skills and had demonstrated they understood the coaching concepts well.

“Yet, when our colleague shared his project roadblocks, we approached him completely differently, and advised instead of coaching him. Our mistake was that we didn’t push him to reflect and find new ways by himself. We had not put into practice what we had learned a few minutes before.

That was an important lesson for me. Now, whenever I coach people, I try to understand their context and drive them to find the solution themselves.”

She adds that the diverse mix of participants only added to the learning experience.

“All my career, I’ve been working with big companies. Hearing from other participants, I could learn how things work in a family company, the government, in health insurance and more.”

With group discussions held each day, there was ample opportunity to tap into the brains of her peers and gain valuable insights.

“The reflections and discussions were powerful for my learning. It was amazing to compare the impact of the economic changes across the market segments and enhance my understanding of different cultures.”

erika sep classmates 1


A process to reflect, review and revise

But the most impactful for her? The daily reflections which were held for 30 minutes at the start of each day.

“It was the most uncomfortable moment of the day for most of us, where we needed to reflect on our learnings about our environment, people, and more. This was when I realised the course isn’t just about acquiring new information. It’s also about learning how we manage both our stakeholders' emotions and our own.”

Reflections have now become a part of her daily routine.

“Especially after intense discussions about strategies, I will stop to reflect, connect, and understand what was discussed. Professor Michael emphasised this: "Pause, breathe, and think before we act.”

Seeing strategy in a new light

Looking back at her journey, Erika observes that while she had entered the programme hoping to pick up relevant concepts and tools for her daily work, she left with far more:

“I learned that strategy is not only about the company’s vision but about the people impacted in the execution. Most of the time, we have not considered that the strategy needs to be implemented by different people worldwide. As such, we need to respect barriers they face, and understand how the economy in different countries can impact the strategy.”

She found that asking these questions is particularly valuable when RHI Magnesita acquires companies as part of its growth trajectory.

“Now we go beyond considering how to integrate the business. We are careful to respect people’s needs, and consider how the changes impact new employees, sectors, and departments.”

As she moves forward in her career, it is not just the frameworks, but these lessons about putting people first that remain close to her heart and guide her strategy execution.

“This means respecting their emotions and needs and to find out how to reach them and to get them on board with the change.”

What Erika Tavares Milles has to say about the Strategy Execution Programme

Networking opportunities

"I appreciated that INSEAD attracted a mix of cultures and backgrounds. Within my cohort, there were more than 10 different cultures, and participants came from different industries, including education, banking, science and government, retail, data management, and more."

Teaching methodology

"The intermodular sessions were important as it was a time to step back and see what we had applied and what we could still apply. Three colleagues and the professor would attend each session, and we could share about our work to receive additional coaching and advice."

Business impact

"I was able to better understand the targets behind our product strategies. This enabled me to reinforce our actions and reshape opportunities in order for us to reach our goals."

Real-world learning

"The discussions and reflections enhanced our understanding of strategy as well as how we manage our goals and drive the execution. The network also improved our knowledge across different industries and cultures, which helped reshape some of our strategic initiatives."