Strategy for the Strategy Function:
Bootcamp in collaboration
5 - 8 October 2020
Strategy is about making choices about where and where not to play, how to win in your chosen space, where to invest and disinvest, and how to allocate resources between many competing priorities. When you make these choices, you never know everything you would like to know. Strategy is fundamentally about making decisions under uncertainty.
These skills are not systematically developed during a career spent in operations or specialized positions, but these are core skills for members of the strategy function. The aim of the Ashridge Strategic Management Centre (ASMC ) Strategy Bootcamp is to help your strategy team to boost their current understanding of strategic thinking and develop the specific skills they need to perform their role effectively, regardless of their background.
The strategy team is often deliberately composed of diverse individuals with varying backgrounds. While this diversity is usually a strength, it often means that the strategy background of individuals can be limited. Unfortuntaly, most current executive education offering tems to either focus on the basics of strategy, one specific aspect, or are directed only at members of the C-suite. As we work closley with strategy leaders and their teams, and we created this course to equip these team members with what they need to perform their roles and also so participants can share experiences with people from other companies.
The Bootcamp covers the following areas:
Strategy, value creation and competitive advantage, and the key pieces of a strategy story
Strategic analysis, the tools, frameworks, and analytical approaches to strategy
Framing of strategic options, choices, and prioritising strategic issues
Strategy, finance, and creating a business case
Communicating strategy and the first steps of implementation
Corporate-level and portfolio strategy
Strategy under uncertainty
Participants will be required to complete a limited amount of pre-work and reading ahead of the Bootcamp. In addition, there will be an optional post-course webinar to supplement the course material. On the program, participants will receive a copy of ‘What You Need to Know about Strategy’ which provides a simple, usable but robust process for analysing and developing business strategies.
BENEFITS AND IMPACT
The program includes opportunities to practice skills through group exercises and discussions, case studies, building a business case, and the application of strategy tools to examples from the delegate group.
By the end of the four days participants will understand the key aspects of strategy, value creation, and strategic analysis and be able to apply these to developing, analysing, executing, and reviewing strategies inside their organisations.
Specifically, the Bootcamp should enable people to:
Define what strategy is and is not, and link strategy to value creation
Understand the drivers of competitive advantage and how advantage can be sustained over time
Be able to use a range of strategy tools and frameworks
Put together the key pieces of a final strategy story
Use a structured approach to defining strategic issues and to generating and evaluating options
Describe the entire strategy design process, from evaluating the external environment through to identifying options and picking the best one
Use financial techniques to help make better business decisions
Describe what is meant by risk and how risk relates to returns required, setting performance targets, and making complex business decisions
Describe how to value a company as part of achieving capital growth
Use three lenses to understand corporate strategy (business, value added, capital markets) and use them to evaluate the current portfolio and make required parenting choices
Deploy several practical tools to help them adopt a more appropriate approach towards making strategic decisions under uncertainty
DAY ONE: Strategic analysis
Day one starts with an introduction to strategy, value creation, and context setting. Through an interactive discussion based on company case examples, we discuss how strategies create value and the decisions a senior leadership team must make to develop one. Then we then introduce the key aspects of the strategy story, including: What is the situation, and how could this change? Where will we play? How will we win? What could stop us? So, what should we do? Then using these questions as a guide, we will explore different aspects of strategy.
We kick this off by using the story of Ducati. When Federico Minoli came to Ducati in the mid 1990’s, he encountered a brand rich in history yet one that was losing money and market share. He knew that it could not return to growth by renewing the existing strategy, so he and his team worked to turnaround the company and reposition Ducati strategically. We will use this case to explore several themes: strategy and value creation; how an organisation can develop and execute on a simple strategy for growth; and how to organise internally for external advantage.
We will then apply the lessons to our own organisations and consider how to think about a simple strategy and its core elements, especially value propositions for value creation. As any advantage is temporary, we will spend the latter part of the session considering how we can sustain competitive advantage over time, using examples from fashion and technology companies, as well as the participants’ own organisations.
DAY TWO: Strategy, value creation, and competitive advantage: Your strategy story
Day two looks at the role of a strategy analyst and covers key tools, frameworks, and approaches to strategic decisions and choices. Pre-program videos and an extract from the book ‘What You Need to Know About Strategy’ will introduce six strategy questions that can be used to structure strategic analysis. We discuss how it is possible to have a short strategy process (focusing rapidly on the issues and options) or a more thorough, rigorous process (doing a lot of work on diagnosing the situation) and when each of these approaches are most appropriate.
A case study about a coffee shop chain is used to go throughout the day, from evaluating the external environment, through to identifying options and picking the best one.
We conclude with a discussion of the analytical tools used at participants’ companies and some practical issues such as what data to collect and how to prioritise different types of analysis.
DAY THREE: Strategy and finance and creating a business case
Day three covers a critical aspect of strategy by linking strategy to financial analysis and preparing a business case, and in this part we examine how we can use financial techniques to help us to make better business decisions.
Creating shareholder value: The purpose of the first session is to acquaint participants with the true measure of value creation and the way in which different approaches are used to facilitate the evaluation of business decisions and investment opportunities. Participants will have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of investment appraisal through the completion of a short but comprehensive and realistic case study.
Risk and return: All complex business decisions embody risk - but what is risk? We will explore exactly what we mean by risk and how it relates to the returns we are required to achieve. We will see how we can use these insights in setting performance targets and making business decisions.
Building a business case: Building and presenting a business case is a fundamental and practical skill required by every senior business manager. Here, we apply the tools and techniques covered during the program to do this. First, we will rehearse the elements of a compelling business case and see how each of the components should be addressed. Then we will apply this approach to the coffee shop case study that we worked on the day before. Using the strategy tools and the financial techniques that we are now familiar with, syndicate groups will be challenged to select and financially evaluate an appropriate strategy for the case study. The groups will then be asked to prepare and present a compelling business case to the board. The presentations will be evaluated and feedback provided to each of the syndicate groups.
Company valuation: The role of a company board is to maximise the returns to shareholders. This is achieved through a combination of the provision of dividends and capital growth. Capital growth means pursuing strategies to increase the worth of the company. If we are to understand the success of such strategies, it means we must understand how to value the company. This final session explores four different ways of valuing a company, how to apply them and how to select the one that is appropriate to the circumstances. A practical case study promotes a deeper understanding of these techniques.
DAY FOUR: Skills of the strategist
This day builds on the previous days to cover three more specific topics: communicating strategy, corporate strategy and portfolio management, and strategy under high uncertainty.
Simplifying and communicating a complex story: We will use the pyramid principle to help participants write better slides and presentations. We will use various examples to do this, including the presentations from the previous days’ business cases.
Corporate strategy and portfolio reviews: As corporate strategy is distinct from company or business unit strategy, we next introduce three lenses on corporate strategy and apply them to a case study:
These three logics can be used when evaluating the current portfolio or when analysing adjacent areas. We also discuss a variety of tools used to identify potential adjacencies. We will also briefly cover some further topics in corporate strategy that are covered more fully in our one day seminar on the topic.
Developing strategy under uncertainty: We will devote the final afternoon to a summary of our recent work on developing strategy under high uncertainty. The discussion will be structured as follows:
The problem: the difference between real and psychological uncertainty and the kinds of change in mindset needed to enable you to make good decisions when you cannot make good predictions
Orientation: assessing uncertainties: how to categorise uncertainties in terms of their familiarity and potential impact and the resulting distinction between probabilistic and exploratory strategy
Approaching uncertainty: sets of practices: how to make beliefs and assumptions explicit; setting direction by determining a compass heading and pace rather than defining a destination; avoiding killers and looking for kickers; choosing a stance, re-orientating and choosing a new stance; and how to address some of the barriers to adopting this approach.
 This session is based on our 2014 book on corporate strategy, Strategy for the Corporate Level
WHO SHOULD ATTEND?
The program is designed for analysts in corporate or BU strategy roles, team members in business development positions, or senior functional heads. Business unit heads or other senior executive roles who wish for a refresher on strategy will equally benefit from how the course is constructed. All participants are assumed to have strategic responsibilities within their role or be soon moving into a related role, though no explicit strategic background is required.
PROGRAM DATES AND LOGISTICS
Dates: Program runs from 5 - 8 October 2020. Program kicks off at 10.00 on Day one and wraps up by 16:00 on day four. There will be a program dinner on the Monday evening and program drinks every evening from 17:30 to 18:30.
Location: Central London, to be confirmed
Other logistics: Participants will be responsible for arranging and paying for their own accommodation. Breakfast and lunch will be provided each day. Drinks will be provided at the end of each day for the participants to network.
APPLYING AND MORE INFORMATION
For more information, please contact ASMC Director Rebecca Homkes at email@example.com.
To book places, please contact Angela Munro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THE TEAM
The faculty members (Rebecca Homkes, Jo Whitehead, Stephen Bungay and David Smith) are all experienced executive teachers and consultants who are involved in supporting and researching the work of the strategy function and bring their expertise in executive teaching, advising, and consulting corporate strategy leaders as well as decades of research on these topics. You can see more on our core faculty by visting our Meet the team page.