Business Strategy

Building and Sustaining Great Organisations

  • In Person Events
  • October 12, 2021 @ 9:00 am - 8:00 pm UTC-1

This year’s annual conference will be held at London’s JW Marriott Grosvenor House on 12 October. The full-day event will explore the topic of Building and Sustaining Great Organisations.

The capacity of organisations to adapt and reposition has been tested through 2020 and 2021, as the world continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic. Our programme of experts include academics and practitioners who will explore the defining features of a great organisation, discussing how to create success, develop great people, deal with failure and implement high-growth strategies. View the full conference programme here, complete with the agenda and masterclass options.

‘Greatness’ can be defined as the ability to deliver sustained high performance over the long term, innovate and adapt at speed to changing circumstances. Many researchers have developed models describing the distinguishing features of ‘great’ organisations. Although their methodologies and conclusions differ, there are a number of common themes:

  • A clear purpose and values beyond making money: great companies develop and maintain an aspirational purpose/mission, an economic model of the business and a set of core values and norms of behaviour that are broadly communicated and understood.
  • The ability to be ambidextrous: optimising the core while developing new lines of business.
  • Openness to the outside world: sensing changes in the external environment to see and exploit opportunities before others.
  • Strong customer orientation: maximising the surface area of the organisation that’s in contact with customers, making it easy for decision makers to receive information about customer behaviour and respond fast to changing customer demand.
  • An organisation design that enables fast, informed decision making: autonomy and devolved decision making, even in large complex organisations. Not allowing organisation complexity such as matrix management to bog people down.
  • A distinctive culture that supports innovation and experimentation: tests constantly being run and evaluated. Failure accepted as a legitimate outcome of experimentation and a vehicle for learning. Learning applied to future experiments.
  • Organisational resilience: the ability to bounce back from setbacks and adequate resources to weather the storms that arise.
  • Change viewed as ‘normal’ and ongoing: not something to be endured on a periodic basis.
  • A culture where people can flourish: the rhetoric of investing in people is backed up by leadership commitment and action.

The capacity of organisations to move quickly, adapt to virtual working and reset the business have been tested in 2020. At our 2021 conference we will take a longer-term view, looking at how Covid-19 may have changed our view of ‘greatness’, and what we can learn from the experience. View the conference programme here.


Stephen Carver

Lecturer in Project & Programme at Cranfield University

Stephen Carver is rated as one of the top three lecturers at one of Europe’s leading MBA Business Schools. He has a reputation of taking complex management concepts such as Project, Programme, Change and Crisis Management and being able to distil them down into highly informative and fast-paced lectures – often using “storytelling” techniques.

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Prof. James Henderson

Professor of Strategic Management, IMD Business School

James E. Henderson is Professor of Strategic Management at IMD. Prior to joining IMD, he was an Associate Professor of Strategic Management at Babson College and Babson School of Executive Education, based in Boston, MA. His areas of special interest are strategy under uncertainty, competitive strategy, corporate strategy, and strategy execution.

Professor Henderson helps companies achieve and sustain their competitive advantage either at a business unit, corporate or global level through directing custom specific executive programs, facilitating strategy workshops, or teaching MBAs and executives.

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Matthew Ingle

Former Chief Executive, Howdens Joinery

Matthew Ingle recently retired of Chief Executive of Howdens Joinery, a company he founded in 1995 with 14 depots and a first-year turnover of £1million. By 2018 the company had 720 depots, a turnover of £1.5billion and pre-tax profits of £250million. A company with a niche market selling kitchens direct to tradespeople, it is an example of a great organisation with an exciting vision, clear business plan, dynamic culture and high performing leadership.

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Whitney Johnson

Author and Executive Coach

Whitney Johnson is one of the 50 leading business thinkers in the world (Thinkers50) and an expert on disruptive innovation and personal disruption, a framework codified in the critically-acclaimed book Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work as well as the award-winning Build an “A” Team: Play To Their Strengths and Lead Them Up the Learning Curve. Her proprietary framework and diagnostics were developed after co-founding the Disruptive Innovation Fund with Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen.

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Helen Pitcher OBE

Chairman, Board member, Board facilitator and Coach

Helen is an experienced Chairman, Board member, Board facilitator and Coach. She works across the range of FTSE, Professional Service, Private Equity and Family firms, where she has led some of the biggest Board Evaluations. Helen is also a coach to many leading CEOs, Chairman and NED’s. She was awarded an OBE for services to Business in 2015.

In addition to her Advanced Boardroom Excellence role Helen holds the following high profile Board roles: Chairman of the Criminal Cases Review Commission, a Non-Executive Director at UB UK,    C & C Group Plc and Chairman of their Remuneration Committee and a member of the Nomination and ESG Committees.  SID at OneHealth Group Ltd and Chairman of the Remuneration and Nominations Committees.  President of INSEAD Directors Network Board (IDN) and a Chairman of INSEAD Directors Club Limited.   Helen is the President of KidsOut (a National Children’s Charity) and sits on the Advisory Board for Leeds University Law Faculty.

Helen was previously Chairman of the Queens Counsel Selection Panel until February 2017, Chairman pladis Advisory Board (United Biscuits, Godiva, Ülker Bisküvi) until April 2019 and a Board member and Remuneration Chairman for the CIPD until June 2019.

Helen holds an MA, LLB (Law), IDP-C (INSEAD International Director’s Programme – Corporate Governance Certificate).  She is the only Consultant in the UK Board Effectiveness arena to hold this INSEAD qualification.  She graduated from the INSEAD Strategy in the Age of Digital Disruption and Strategy for Accelerated Growth Programmes and the INSEAD Diversity Programme.  Helen is also an alumnus of the ground-breaking INSEAD Challenge of Leadership Programme.  She both attended and now features on the INSEAD Leading from the Chair programme.

Helen is a Fellow of the IoD, CIPD, CIM, RSA and a Member of the European Corporate Governance Institute.

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