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Creating and Executing Breakthrough Strategy

Creating and Executing Breakthrough Strategy


In today’s dynamic world, the old static planning methods no longer work. The key to success is to create an adaptive enterprise capable of generating winning strategies and renewing those strategies as the environment changes.

Creating and Executing Breakthrough Strategy offers a set of practical tools to achieve this kind of organizational agility. The program introduces you to the Strategic Learning Process, a unique 4-step model which has been battle tested and is being applied successfully by many global companies and not-for-profit organizations to create and implement winning strategies repeatedly over time.

Strategic Learning is an insight-to-action process. The four linked action steps move in a cycle (see picture below): 1) Learn about the external environment and your organization’s own realities; 2) Focus by making choices about where you will compete and how you will win; 3) Align your people and your business system behind your strategy; 4) Execute faster and better than your competitors.

That takes the firm back to the Learn step, thus creating an ongoing cycle of learning and renewal.

The Strategic Learning Process


During the program you will benefit from the opportunity to apply your learning to an important personal case with the help and insight of faculty and peers.

For a complete program schedule, download the agenda.

Please Contact Us

Please contact our Learning Solutions Specialists at 212-854-3395 for a personal conversation to learn more.

Testimonials for Strategic Learning:

"Strategic Learning provided Riverside with a powerful mechanism to promote shared understanding, shared commitment and unity of action in order for us to be the best."
     – Ron Corti, President and CEO of Riverside Health Care System

"Working in teams, we applied the Strategic Learning Process to create superior insights into our competitive landscape and define our Winning Proposition and Key Priorities going forward. We have now significantly improved our performance and, ultimately, our brand."
     – Tom Motamed, Chairman and CEO of CNA Financial Corporation

"Strategic Learning is the best method I have ever found for creating winning strategies."
     – Michael Mahoney, President and CEO of Boston Scientific


You will learn how to apply the market-tested Strategic Learning methodology: the four-step cycle designed to create and sustain winning performance. During the program, you will be given a workbook of practical tools you can use immediately upon returning to your organization.

"We believe that our job is to bring you the best ideas on strategic leadership, together with powerful tools to turn them into action. That is what we aim to do in Creating and Executing Breakthrough Strategy."
–Willie Pietersen and Peter Meola, Faculty Directors

Summary of Benefits

  • Learn to conduct a Situation Analysis: a powerful method for creating insights into the external environment and your company’s own realities
  • Improve your ability to foresee change and its implications
  • Create a “Winning Proposition” that differentiates your organization and provides superior value for your customers and shareholders
  • Learn how to win hearts and minds of your people and align your business system behind your strategy
  • Master the golden rules of effective implementation, and leadership of change
  • Understand how to monitor and measure the success of your strategy, and how to apply rapid corrective actions

Upon completion of this program, you will earn six days towards a Certificate in Business Excellence. Learn more.


Before the program begins, participants prepare by meeting with superiors and peers to identify and document a strategic challenge. This pressing issue becomes the foundation for the participant’s personal case, which is discussed and addressed throughout the program with other participants and with faculty coaches.

Sample Session Titles

  • Understanding the universal forces of change and their implications
  • Overview of Strategic Learning: Comparison with other methods of strategy
  • Winning at insight through your Situation Analysis
  • Making strategic choices and developing your Winning Proposition and Key Priorities
  • Driving your economic engine
  • Mobilizing the power of organizational alignment
  • Implementation effectiveness
  • Leading change and renewal

For a complete program schedule download the agenda.

Audience & Testimonials

Creating and Executing Breakthrough Strategy is designed for executives of all levels responsible for strategic planning, with primary responsibility for making the changes necessary to enable effective execution of strategy, or those with P&L responsibility who seek to become more strategic in their thinking.

Alumni and up to four of their colleagues are eligible for a 25 percent tuition benefit for programs lasting up to seven days. More on the Alumni Tuition Benefit.


The program is led by Willie Pietersen, the originator of the Strategic Learning Process, and Peter Meola. Both professors Pietersen and Meola have been CEOs of significant organizations in the past, and bring the insights from their practical experience to the program. Their bios follow.


Faculty: William Pietersen 
William G. Pietersen
Professor, The Practice of Management
Columbia Business School

Willie Pietersen was raised in South Africa, and received a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. After practicing law, he embarked on an international business career. Over a period of twenty years he served as the CEO of multibillion-dollar businesses such as Lever Foods, Seagram USA, Tropicana and Sterling Winthrop’s Consumer Health Group.

In 1998, Pietersen was named Professor of the Practice of Management at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business. He specializes in strategy and the leadership of change, and his methods and ideas, especially Strategic Learning, are widely applied within Columbia’s executive education programs, and also in numerous corporations.

He has served as a teacher and advisor to many global companies, including Aviva, Bausch & Lomb, Boeing, Chubb Corp., Deloitte, DePuy, Ericsson, ExxonMobil, Henry Schein, Inc., Novartis, SAP and also the Girl Scouts of the USA.

Willie’s latest book is:

  • Strategic Learning: How to Be Smarter Than Your Competition and Turn Key Insights into Competitive Advantage (John Wiley & Sons, 2010)

He has also written numerous articles. These can be downloaded from his web site at Among them are:

  • Translating Your Strategy Into A Compelling Leadership Message (European Business Review, Nov. – Dec., 2010)
  • Defining Competitive Advantage: How Much More Value Do You Deliver Than Your Competitors? (European Business Review, Sept. – Oct., 2010)
  • Strategy As Learning (European Business Review, July – Aug., 2010)
  • The Mark Twain Dilemma: The Theory and Practice of Change Leadership, (Journal of Business Strategy, October, 2002)

Faculty: Peter Meola 
Peter Meola
Faculty Member
Curriculum Specialist
Columbia Business School
Executive Education 

After over 25 years as a senior executive of multinational businesses, Peter is a member of the faculty at Columbia Business School in New York. His primary areas of focus and passion are Leadership of Organizational Culture, as well as, Strategic Learning as a Leadership Process, which is uniquely applied within Columbia’s executive education programs, both open enrollment and custom. Peter also teaches MBA candidates his popular elective, “Organizational Culture Demystified: Leading and Creating a Winning Organization”.

Prior to joining the faculty, Peter held a variety of senior executive roles in several global firms, including Unilever (Foods), Lehn and Fink (Household Products), The Seagram Company (Distilled Spirits), Tropicana (Beverages), Burmah Castrol (Lubricants) and ExxonMobil (Energy). Prior to joining Columbia’s faculty, Peter was a Group Executive at BP PLC (British Petroleum), and CEO of their Americas Lubricant Division, where he led a cross-cultural and cross-functional employee base with operations in over 20 countries. In 2000, when BP PLC successfully acquired and integrated Burmah Castrol, Peter was an executive member of the Global Integration Team and the lead executive in the Americas. He was also an Executive Committee Member of the Global Lubricants business and Chair of their Human Resource Committee.

Peter has a BA in Economics from Union College (Schenectady, New York) and an MBA from the College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, Virginia). He is an elected member of Beta Gamma Sigma, a national scholastic honor society in the field of business and has attended post-graduate educational programs at the Wharton School, INSEAD and Stanford University.

He is a member of the Board of Trustees of St John’s Riverside Hospital (Assistant Secretary and Chair of the Strategic Development Committee), Visiting Lecturer at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, Industry Advisor for JPMorgan Chase Primary Insight & Alpha Insights and Founder of Meola Associates LLC, a strategic and organizational development advising and consulting firm. Peter has served as a consultant for a number of firms, including Welch’s, ExxonMobil, Johnson & Johnson, Henry Schein, CNA Insurance, IntraLinks, Chubb Insurance, UGI, Riverside Healthcare System, United Nations Federal Credit Union and many more.


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Earn Alumni Benefits

The Certificate in Business Excellence (CIBE) is awarded to participants who complete a total of 18 program days within a four-year period.

Learn more about the benefits of earning a CIBE.

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