On January 26th, the Aalto alumni network board hosted a meeting with a group of Aalto alumni working in leading strategy consulting firms and the President’s Management Team. The purpose of the meeting was to tap into the expertise of the alumni and discuss the recently launched strategy. The alumni shared six ideas for strengthening Aalto’s strategy.
The participating alumni were Anna Granskog, Partner at McKinsey & Company; Hannu Suonio, Partner at PwC; Mikko Pulkkinen, Partner at August Associates; Teemu Ruska, Managing Director at Boston Consulting Group; Antti Halonen, Partner at Valor and Krister Ahlström, an alumnus who has had a long-term influence on the Finnish economic life and received the honorary title “Ikiteekkari” from the Teekkari community.
Kaj Hagros, the chairman of the Aalto alumni network board, summarized the key successes of the strategy. Overall, the strategy materials were viewed as clearly structured and meticulously prepared. The purpose, values and development area formulations were seen as inspiring and visionary. The strategy was especially applauded for involving hundreds of people from the Aalto community in the process.
Next, the strategy consultants shared their observations on the potential development areas of the strategy. The key insights and potential follow-up actions were discussed together with the President’s Management Team. The six ideas for strengthening the Aalto strategy can be explored in more detail below.
1. Specifying key focus areas for research and education
The strategy consultants highlighted the importance of defining the focus areas for research and education more specifically. They pointed out that inherently a strategy is a response to a prevalent situation. While the purpose and values of Aalto University were clearly defined, the content of the strategy could have received more attention by pinpointing areas in which Aalto University aims to excel.
2. Crystallising the strategy story
The second observation focused on the importance of creating a simple and captivating story of the key points of the strategy. The alumni explained that a good story is the most effective way to communicate a strategy. They pointed out that Aalto had done an excellent job in producing inspiring multimedia content about the strategy on its website. The official strategy materials could be further developed to allow different community members to tell a more uniform story about the strategy.
3. Making the operating environment analysis more explicit
The strategy experts wished for a more detailed account of the state of the operating environment and major trends. They pointed out that it would be valuable to specify how Aalto University plans to address the major trends and changes in the operating environment such as digitalisation and online learning leading that may lead to increased global competition. Aalto could also further elaborate on positioning, differentiation, talent acquisition and the key future capabilities that are required to succeed in the changing operating environment.
4. Clarifying leadership and governance
The fourth observation related to clarifying how Aalto aims to follow the implementation of the most important strategic initiatives. The alumni viewed that Aalto had clearly defined the high-level strategic targets and school-level plans. However, the leadership and management on the mid-level was slightly unclear: Aalto could clarify how strategic targets are followed on a 6- to 12-month time horizon.
5. Simplifying agile implementation
The fifth point focused the best practices of agile strategy implementation. The consultants explained that change always begins with people which means that goals need to be actionable and sufficient time needs to be allocated for strategic projects. Additionally, strategy implementation could benefit from communicating clearly on all organizational levels and supporting experimentation.
6. Enhancing alumni and student engagement
The sixth observation related to student and alumni engagement. The meeting participants emphasized the importance of transforming the feeling of belonging during student times into impact after graduation. For example, Aalto could more actively communicate towards the alumni. The alumni also pointed out that Aalto could utilize the experience of current and previous student representatives and other student groups.
The meeting ended in a discussion on forming a group of strategy alumni that could participate in the strategy process in the future. If you are interested in hearing more about this group, you can contact Kaj Hagros ([email protected]).