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A key to economic success

How to establish a sustainable and strategically solid Corporate Transformation.

It is neither new nor surprising that companies are continuously forced to adapt their business model to the economic and social environment. However, these strategic reorientation drivers have never been as dominant and inevitable as today. In the following interview, Rakesh Thadani, Director Strategic Engagements & Advisor Relations DACH of Wipro, and Serden Ozcan, Professor and Chair of Innovation and Corporate Transformation at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, point out the challenges during the process of Corporate Transformation. Furthermore, they illustrate the most important skills of renowned successful executives.

Rakesh Tadani, Prof. Dr. Serden Ozcan

Are there any companies that mastered the Corporate Transformation extraordinarily well? What are the best practices on an international level?

Rakesh Thadani (RT): Sure, Microsoft is definitely a good example: Since Satya Nadella became CEO in 2014, the company has made a startling transformation. Microsoft grew tremendously after creating an own cloud system with a device-independent and standardized user interface. Further, they restructured multiple departments and teams internally. Their new strategy is obvious: customer service. Microsoft puts the customer´s needs first, even if that leads to compromises with their eternal competitor Apple.

What are the most important skills of senior executives during a Corporate Transformation?

Serden Ozcan (SO): Executives should stay up to date, learn quickly and think outside the box. Additionally, they should not succumb themselves to organizational inertia. Therefore, it is extremely important to show enthusiasm, passion and commitment for the goals of a corporate transformation.

Moreover, a successful corporate transformation must start at the top. The top-level management needs to demonstrate the transformation to their teams in a comprehensive and visible way. At the same time, inspirational leaders have to perform a delicate balancing act: On the one hand, they need to fully engage and assume personal responsibility; on the other hand, they need to delegate wisely to ensure that the employees focus on the company´s goals.

What are the most important drivers of Corporate Transformation?

RT: One of the biggest driver is customers´ demands, which keep growing. The demands of current and future employees is just as important. The “resource” of skilled professionals becomes scarcer which changes the balance of power between employer and employee. Senior executives must adjust their company´s strategy to stay competitive.

What are the biggest challenges for companies during a Corporate Transformation?

RT: Unfortunately, there are still a lot of executives who cling to the status quo and distrust innovations. This is often caused by insecurity or fear, or sometimes due to convenience. Therefore, change processes slow down, or in worst cases – never take place. In my opinion, this unwillingness to change is caused by people who define themselves by their status within the company and not by their personal skills.

Senior executives, specifically, need to improve their professional skills permanently for the economic success of their company. This includes collaborating with other people within the company and with other companies, too. Collaboration and transparency will become even more important in the future.

SO: Let me focus on two important observations: A key challenge for companies is to mobilize the entire organization towards one long-term goal: Corporate Transformation. Corporate Transformation may end up in a complete reorganization of the entire company. This can cause uncertainty and fear of change at the beginning of such a process. Even if, initially, corporate leaders succeed in getting people on board, the process could quickly stop after the first changes have been implemented and eventually lose momentum. This is why continuous motivation is of utter importance and falls in the duties of corporate leaders. They need to be proactive and keep their employers united behind one process.

Moreover, corporate transformation can stop completely, if quick wins are the focus. The reason behind this are poorly thought through strategies or so called ‘cosmetic changes’ that are only focused on inconsistent projects. In order to avoid those obstacles, corporate leaders focus on pursuing the transformation agenda. Companies should formulate an overall strategy, which coordinates sub-projects to create synergies systematically.

“Life long learning” – in particular, this holds true in the areas of leadership behavior and corporate change. To meet the challenges of the market, executives should always reflect their corporate strategy and leadership skills. Modern and inspiring leadership strategies make it possible to make a company fit for the future by expanding existing competitive advantages and tapping new potential.

WHU’s Advanced Management for Senior Professionals Program provides a 6-day intensive format for experienced senior management executives, providing new insights into strategy, leadership and global economic development. Participants will have the chance to exchange views with the help of group reflections and peer-to-peer coaching and thus generate direct input for their own company.

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WHU Executive Education in FT Ranking for the first time

The Executive Education program at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management has been listed in the “Financial Times Executive Education Open Programs” ranking for the first time. The program at WHU was ranked 29th in Europe and came in 1st place worldwide in terms of business growth.

“We are very pleased that the high quality of our executive education offer is reflected in the Financial Times ranking,” Professor Dr. Markus Rudolf, Dean of WHU, remarked. “This confirms our aspiration of offering outstanding further education and training for executives at an international level.”

WHU bundles its further training offerings in the field of Executive Education. The portfolio comprises customized programs for individual companies, open-enrollment programs for individual participants or small groups of companies, and the Certified-in programs, an MBA-level opportunity for further education and training. In its “Open Programs,” WHU’s current offerings include seminars on digitalization, entrepreneurship, finance, leadership and negotiation strategies.

The FT Executive Education Ranking lists the 80 best international programs for further education and training in its “Open Programs” category; the program at WHU ranked 60th. They are ranked, among other criteria, based on the quality of instruction, the organization of courses and the diversity of participants. The evaluation is based on disclosures by universities and on surveys of program graduates.


New: Campus for corporate transformation

One-day conference for managers and executives to develop new perspectives and approaches around the topic of Corporate Transformation

Not only is the pace of business life constantly increasing and becoming more hectic, but companies, too, are perpetually exposed to the impacts of digitalization and globalization. Those who fail to move with the times or align their business model with these developments will quickly fall by the wayside. Despite some risks, new business models and technologies unlock vast potential for companies – and this can affect not only entire departments and business segments, but also impact the company and its market environment as a whole.

The new Campus for Corporate Transformation conference format from the WHU Executive Education department is dedicated to this multi-faceted topic. A one-day event enables managers and executives to develop new perspectives and approaches around the topic of Corporate Transformation. A company’s long-term economic success is under the spotlight at all times. Well-known executives from the German business world provide exclusive insights into the development of their business segments and encourage a dynamic exchange of views that generates practically focused inspiration and stimulus.

Through targeted ideas and up-to-date content, conference participants can consolidate their expertise in the field of Corporate Transformation, expand their personal network, and develop concrete solutions for their business environment.

Digital Transformation – Perspectives from the Top

Digitalization is one of the most complex yet most dynamic influences on today’s economy and society. Alongside rapid changes such as those we are witnessing in information technology or logistics, we see the impact of this megatrend across a whole range of segments and levels of business. This event illuminates the effects of digitalization and other issues from the perspective of a CEO, CFO, COO/CDO, and CHRO. You will learn how leading companies confidently navigate the broad field of digitalization and how you can develop practically focused solutions for you or your company.

The conference language is English and the event will take place on September 26, 2018 at the WHU Campus Düsseldorf.

More information about the conference


What is Design Thinking capable of?

Use the innovation method to initiate change-processes in companies.

Design Thinking covers various areas: idea finding, customer focus (user experience), new methods of co-working, agile working methods and prototyping. That's why this innovative method is a great opportunity to prepare and initiate change processes in a company.

Ute Hamelmann is Innovationsmanager at WestLotto and participated in WHU's Design Thinking Program in 2017. In the inetrview below, she gives helpful advice to managers and executives on how to successfully impliment Design Thinking to companies.

Read the interview here (German)


Mergers & Acquisitions: Determinants and value effects of early announcements in takeovers

Determinants and value effects of early announcements in takeovers

Professor Dr. Nihat Aktas holds the Chair of Mergers and Acquisitions at WHU since 2013 and is Faculty Director of the Mergers & Acquisitions in Practice Program for executives. In this interview, he gives insights into recent research results on M&A negotiations and early announcements in takeovers.

WHU Executive Education: We know that in most countries listed acquirers are obliged to disclose their takeover offer to investors when they have signed a definitive merger agreement with the target. Does it mean that companies have no discretion over the timing of an M&A deal announcement?

Professor Nihat Aktas (NA): Usually, when an M&A is announced to the public, the acquirer has already signed the merger agreement with the target; but interestingly, in a recent study that will appear in the Journal of Corporate Finance¹ , together with my co-authors Guosong Xu and Burcin Yurtoglu, we find that a significant proportion of the deals were actually announced before any agreement has been reached between the acquirer and the target.

WHU Executive Education: Well, this must be the rumors, right?

NA: Not exactly. In fact, we find that even excluding explicit rumored bids about 7% of the M&A transactions were disclosed by the bidders voluntarily before the merger agreement. In the paper, we call these M&A disclosures “early announcements”.

WHU Executive Education: Voluntary early announcements? But we know that merger negotiations are highly confidential, and that acquirer managers certainly do not want any rival to jump into the process and push up the bidding prices.

NA: Well, what you said is only partially true – In a friendly merger negotiation, we certainly expect the bidder and the target to peacefully negotiate the deal terms in private until a final agreement is signed, and that a public announcement follows. But what about a negotiation in which for some reason target managers resist? In this case, the bidders might resort to the market, hoping that investors are their “last straw”. Especially, bidders who perceive the deal as highly synergetic are willing to make such early announcements because they are able to offer a high premium and because they are confident that low-synergy bidders cannot afford the costly early publicity. This is what we call a “signal” in finance. In return, investors understand this signal sent out by the bidder, so they may exert pressure on the target managers and help the deal go through relatively more smoothly.

WHU Executive Education: Have you found support for this signaling hypothesis?

NA: Indeed. We find that negotiation frictions predict an early announcement. In particular, lengthier negotiations, unsolicited bids, and bids in which the target is talking with several bidders at the same time are more likely to be disclosed earlier; in contrast, sale processes initiated by the target are less likely to have early announcements. We also find that these early announced deals have higher announcement returns – to the bidder, target and at the deal level – suggesting that these transactions are value creating. Bidders who announce early also pay higher premium, but importantly their stock price reactions are not worse, indicating that there is no overpayment in early-announced transactions on average.

WHU Executive Education: Can acquirer managers learn something from these findings?

NA: I believe the main takeaway from these findings is that public announcements are actually a strategic tool at the bidder’s disposal. If bidder managers know how to smartly use public disclosure as a signal, they have an advantage – in the case of M&As, for example, we show that these signaling bidders indeed achieve higher deal consummation rates, in spite of higher public competition. From an investor’s perspective, the signal, or the strategic early announcement, also leads to a more efficient takeover market.

¹Aktas, Nihat, Guosong Xu, and Burcin Yurtoglu, “She Is Mine: Determinants and Value Effects of Early Announcements in Takeovers”. Journal of Corporate Finance, Forthcoming. Available at: or

WHU Mergers & Acquisitions in Practice Program

WHU and PwC offer a joint Executive Education program for managers and (senior) executives. The program equips participants with the necessary tools and methods to address the main challenges related to mergers and acquisitions.

The program gives practical insights into the M&A business and will take place at WHU Campus Düsseldorf from June 6-8, 2019.

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