Developing Corporate Capabilities Playbook

View All Posts


Dave Niles (President of SSA & Company) joins Gary Reiner (Special Advisor to General Atlantic; former SVP & CIO, General Electric) and Robert Willett (former CEO, Al-Futtaim) as special guests in a panel discussion hosted by Next Generation Leadership. The session chair, Brad Anderson (former CEO and Vice Chairman of Best Buy) led the discussion, exploring the challenges of developing corporate capabilities in global businesses and driving continuous improvement by creating a learning organization. Next Generation Leadership (NGL), one of SSA’s sister companies, is a CEO-readiness membership organization designed to prepare key members of the corporate C-suite for the real-world challenges of running a Fortune 500 company. Here are the practical and actionable insights that emerged from this session.


  • David Niles – President, SSA & Company
  • Gary Reiner – former SVP & Chief Information Officer, GE
  • Robert Willett – former CEO, Al-Futtaim

Based on the feedback from many of NGL’s participants, this proved to be the session that yielded the most practical and actionable insights on how to empower your people, how to structure your organization, how to use metrics correctly, and how to create a culture of candor:

  • You can structure your business to create empowerment. If you permit only four layers in your business between the highest and lowest employee, the cultural implications are huge. It takes different skills to lead a team of 20 direct reports than it does to lead a team of five. And the 20 direct reports have more autonomy. These are executive-driven engineering decisions.
  • Capability is an internal discussion but it must always have an external focus. Never forget about the “belly-to-belly,” employee-to-customer relationships – use this focus to improve performance and become more competitive.
  • Pick one external metric and use it to drive internal productivity. At GE Capital, for example, the metric was time to financing, which was 63 days; they set a goal of “enroll today, transact tomorrow,” and everyone rallied around it. Track this metric more than you track your financials. If you get the external metric right, the financials will follow.
  • Once you have the metric, use a three-pronged approach:

  1. The leader has to own it and be loud about it, everywhere he or she goes;
  2. It is always a cross-functional effort – the metric must apply to all teams and you must be able to map out how each team will affect the metric and own the solution;
  3. Build a culture where you are asking all of your employees all of the time to come up with ideas to improve the metric every day.
  • Even the best discipline falls off – keep pushing and find a new metric. It is not a one-time effort; it must be sequenced and cadenced, and you must highlight successes continually.
  • Use hard data and your understanding about the industry and your customers to create a mosaic of information about where your industry is going. Work all of our sources to see around corners.
  • Get the honest and transparent picture of what is going on in your company – from your employees to your vendors. If you can’t get candor directly from them, use consultants or conduct exit interviews. Learn from these sources and transmit the lessons learned throughout the organization.


Find out how we can help transform your business Contact Us