Strategic digital leadership in a rapidly changing world

Intouch Group / Alliance Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester

– FINALIST OF THE 2020 EXCELLENCE IN PRACTICE AWARDS –

Digital disruption

The increasing challenge of digital disruption demands faster business innovation. This makes capabilities in strategic insight and effective project implementation more important than ever.

Digital technologies are disrupting value chains, organisational structures, operational processes and revenue models. Managing the digital transformation effectively will ensure whether a company succeeds or not.

Most successful organisations in the future will be those with the capability to orchestrate knowledge in the digital economy: from designing products and user experiences to implementing data analytics, AI and machine learning methodologies/approaches.

And these organisations are the ones likely to sustain competitive advantage in the longer term. This perspective places a premium on the role of organisational learning and the skills of rapid adaptation.

Co-creation the key to success

Intouch Holdings PCL is a holding company focused on the telecommunications industry. It is the parent company of Advanced Info Service (AIS), the largest mobile phone operator in Thailand, and Thaicom.

Intouch Group is a well-established and successful enterprise operating in a VUCA environment who understood that in an era of disruptive innovation the status quo is not an option.

Of critical importance in addressing this challenge is people and future leadership populations who will face the continuous task of adapting to change, driving innovation and delivering sustainable long-term growth.

A series of interventions and programmes were commissioned by the group, aiming to break down organisation silos, increase operational effectiveness and elicit innovative responses to new challenges in an era of disruptive innovation.

Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS) was commissioned to design a leadership programme for the pre C-level suite of 200 leaders.

The intention was that this would not only be an individual leadership development opportunity but that it should assist Intouch Group identify which people were best placed to drive the company forward over the next 10 years.

To transform this challenge into a definitive, tangible programme, AMBS and Intouch Group followed two core principles.

First, to be solution focussed. We feel that customised corporate education is about delivering business benefit as well as individual outcomes and identifying this business rationale is critical to a programme’s success.

Second, to be collaborative. Essentially, we believed that AMBS are leaders in customised education design and the latest thinking in management science; and Intouch Group are experts in the telecommunications sector, their business and their organisation culture. Combining these two areas of expertise was the only way to achieve programme success.

Based on this philosophy, we worked closely together and adopted a co-creation approach to programme development.

Initially, AMBS undertook 10 in-depth, semi- structured interviews with senior leaders across Intouch Group on site in Bangkok prior to the design stage.

The aim was for AMBS to gain an in-depth understanding of the organisation to better align the programme structure, content and delivery to the specific needs of the business.

The programme design continually evolved throughout the delivery journey. We held regular check-ins and formal meetings with the Intouch team to review project status and any issues arising. This fed into a continuous review process whereby each module was reviewed and, if necessary, amended prior to delivery in subsequent programme cycles.

The programme

This was a seven-month blended-learning programme that provided an opportunity for high potentials and performers to get away from day-to-day business and firefighting, focus on what is coming over the horizon, understand the today’s VUCA business world and develop appropriate capabilities to respond.

The “learning journey” consisted of intensive face-to-face interventions interspersed with supporting webinars, plus online resources via a virtual learning environment. The programme culminated in group projects which were pre-selected by Intouch Group’s senior team.

As well as developing insights into leading digital businesses, the delegates explored change and innovation cultures, and were encouraged to challenge organisation status quos in a safe environment.

Due to the success, AMBS agreed to take forward the partnership for year two. A further Gold Leaders Programme was commissioned for the same 200 participants, with the aim of creating a bridge between where Intouch Group were now and where the organisation needs to be in term of leadership skills

The Year Two programme aimed to further develop the target Gold Leadership population’s strategic leadership capabilities to help shape and deliver long-term business improvement and sustainable growth.

This was a more ambitious programme, which included significant use of innovative approaches to blended learning. It was a seven-month blended-learning programme consisting of intensive face-to-face interventions, supporting webinars, complementary online programmes plus online support material.

Innovations in the 2019 programme design included:

  • A gamification approach to increase motivation through competition, track participation and also to aid the identification of top talent. This involved integrated digital badging
  • Two embedded edX online professional certificate courses to encourage self-learning, carefully selected to complement the AMBS programme content
  • A delegate-driven, project-based approach to increase learning impact. Projects were generated by the groups themselves, with the intention that some of these projects would drive the next few years of Intouch Group’s business
  • The use of our AMBS trio teaching model (three teachers in the room) to bring diversity of practice and expertise
  • A flipped classroom approach, with workshop time used for applied learning sessions as well as project work, with the aim of increasing engagement and deepening learning
  • A project-grouping app to increase group diversity and break down silos

The results

The Year One programme had a significant impact on individual delegate leadership capability, demonstrated by improvements in leadership competency and effectiveness; strategic thinking capability demonstrated by development of cognitive capabilities around strategically aligned project briefs improved organisational leadership processes and practice; demonstrated by improved cross-functional working

It also enabled business improvement objectives aligned to the Intouch Group sustainable growth priorities; demonstrated by the outputs of linked business improvement and associated strategic new product development projects

Year One served as a strong launchpad in developing a community of practice across the entire Gold Leader population. It gave a real foundation for the delivery of the Year Two programme and the impact identified was:
The participants have all reported that they feel more effective in their roles as managers, and the majority reported that the programme had absolutely or to a great extent helped them to make connections and better understand other areas of the organisation. The outputs of the group projects are now being implemented across the organisation and will help to drive the company forward.

Kantima Lerlertyuttitham and Prong Tharawanich of Intouch are extremely proud of the Gold Leaders Programme. They state “together with Alliance MBS we have succeeded in developing two truly innovative and unique programmes, which have proved to be genuinely transformational. The programmes have helped develop the foundations for continued innovation and the evolution of Intouch Group to drive future sustainable growth. They have created collaboration across the organisation, enhancing individuals’ leadership skills and fostering a spirit of independent, self-directed learning. The output from the group projects will help to drive the company forward and achieve our strategic objective to become the most-admired Digital Life Service Provider in Thailand”.

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