What Did I Learn at Harvard…

I thought I knew everything about Strategy until I returned to Harvard Business School recently for an advanced strategy program. Wow… What a great insight.

Here are my 7 takeaways…

Harvard class

My 1st Takeaway – People:

It’s not about technology, it’s not about brand, and it’s not about products; it’s all about people. Companies are learning it fast. If you are an average performer, your days are counted. Get ready for a talent war ahead of you.

Multi-ethnic Casual People Holding Digital Tablets

My 2nd Takeaway – Customers:

In today’s world you do not sell products or services to your customers; you sell relationship. Infosys recently implemented a ‘Relationship Balanced Scorecard’ for their worldwide operations. Relationship is driven by your right brain; forget all the logic and serve your customers from your heart.

Hidden Relationship

My 3rd Takeaway – Goals:

If you are accomplishing all of your goals easily, you have set the bar too low. To reach your full potential, you must set the goals stretched enough to miss about 15-20%.


My 4th Takeaway – Culture:

Culture is a real competitive advantage. Great cultures are created by great leaders and nurtured over a long period of time. Think of Apple, Google, Amazon and GE; is it possible to copy their cultures? In a strong culture you tend to lose your individuality and the culture becomes your identity. What culture you are in?


My 5th Takeaway – Strategy:

Strategy is not a choice anymore; the game is only going to get tougher. The businesses who think they do not need a formal strategy are living in fools’ paradise. A perfect storm of change (how we run businesses) is coming up and many companies that are not prepared will be completely wiped out. How prepared you are?


My 6th Takeaway – Employees:

Employee engagement is not enough; employee enablement is the key. If you hire the best talent but do not enable them to perform, you set them for failure. Remember the four keys to enablement; (1) Simplified work processes, (2) Skills alignment with work demands, (3) Reward system, and (4) Work-life integration.


My 7th Takeaway – Work-life balance

It’s not about work-life balance; it’s about work-life integration. The new reality for business leaders is 24/7 working hours. Adjust your pace and rhythm. Life is not a sprint race; it’s a marathon. Stop living in compartments; you have only one life and it’s short.


What do you think? Leave me a comment or question. – Saleem Sufi

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “What Did I Learn at Harvard…

  1. All your points are spot on. The challenge for nearly all businesses is creating an environment or structure to meet these objectives. My observations of the firms where I’ve work as a FTE or consultant is meeting 1 or 2 of these points is about the best they can do. If a firm is hitting 3 to 5, they are probably highly successful. Doing better than this against these metrics is necessary for a firm to flourish and the fuel to do so starts in the C-suite. Weak leadership, concern only for top line revenue and selfishness from the C-suite result in a company’s failure in this pursuit.

    It’s unfortunate this current reality exists, but it creates opportunity for management teams to create new value and do better for all stakeholders.

  2. Very concise statements. Most would agree with them, but another value in your posting is the synthetic and concise communication. Thanks for posting it!

  3. Saleem, All relevant and pertinent observations. It’s interesting how closely the issues I’m facing every day are mirrored in these observations.

  4. Saleem,

    You have covered so much in so few words. All are valid points to address.
    I would love to be an enabled contributor to a quality company that had these priorities.
    If am hopeful they exist.

  5. I would add detailed planning. Permeating the organization with an in-depth requirement to plan has been critical, in my experience.