Leaders can let go and still be in control.


Technology has made it possible to apply a new management philosophy. Managers can let go and still be in control.


Managing Strategic Alignment Through Corporate Dialogue

By Fred Lachotzki and Robert Noteboom

Leading large organizations involves managing both their performance and their striking-power – i.e. their capability to execute strategy. The latter is best achieved by measuring and managing alignment between the corporate strategy and its execution. Yet for company leaders no amount of travel or motivational sessions can ever be enough to ensure that the strategy is communicated deep into the organization, understood, accepted and executed. CEOs need a proven model to allow them to delegate and decentralize. The management focus must be shifted from structured control to guided interaction.

Managing by strategic pull and operational push achieves this shift. Doing so requires a permanent (often real-time) corporate dialogue between the CEO and key executives. The authors of Beyond Control have learned from experience that for this to work consistently over time, a dedicated communication infrastructure is needed. This executive dialogue centre is an Internet-based portal specifically designed as a virtual CEO office to manage the interaction between the CEO and his or her key people.

Introducing an executive dialogue centre allows the CEO to move to the middle of the operation but keep the corporate agenda alive. It also represents the ultimate commitment to a management style of strategic pull and operational push. By creating a well-defined operating arena that enables people to participate and thrive with clear, responsible freedom, the CEO can measure and manage strategic alignment. The result will be an organization that continuously outperforms the expectations of clients and stakeholders.


A Plea for a Future

30 November 2016

Professor Fred Lachotzki has formally ended his position as professor of Corporate Strategy at Nyenrode Business Universiteit. His valedictory speech was entitled "A Plea for a future" ("Een Pleidooi voor een toekomst").


Download the valedictory lecture:  Dutch version |  English version

View the lecture slides:  Dutch version |  English version

Read the full article about his speech (Dutch) and his royal honor on Nyenrode Newsroom


View the lecture and ceremony on film


Case studies of real-life issues are great tools for bringing out the essence of management dilemmas while enabling students to learn about the consequences of interventions – or the failure to intervene.

The cases listed below either were written by Fred Lachotzki or involved him directly or indirectly. Several cases, teaching notes and possible 'B' and 'C' cases can be ordered at the European Case Clearing House. Contact: 'cases@ecch.com'

See All Cases

Equatorial Guinea is one of the most extraordinary countries in the world, if also one of the most obscure. Its tremendous yearly revenue from the oil concessions it grants in its Gulf of Guinea territorial waters is little known, but so too is its abysmal record on human rights. The deep-rooted corruption to be found there, on the other hand, with the ruling family of President Teodoro Obiang dominating government and economic enterprises, can probably be assumed but is shocking nonetheless in light of the needs of a native population still largely mired in poverty. This case directly addresses the moral questions involved in working with such a regime, through the eyes of an Amsterdam-based PR and advocacy office that is approached by Equatorial Guinean officials and agrees to do so. Can such involvement be anything other than a cynical money-earning exercise, or is it really possible to influence the behavior of such a regime for the better by working closely with it?


Case in progress.


High-tech innovation is something not confined to the US, and indeed for decades the Dutch-based company ASMI has been a strong worldwide competitor in the market for the highly-complicated machines which manufacture the semi-conducter chips which are to be found in all modern-day electronic devices. This is largely down to the vision of ASMI's founder, Arthur del Prado, who dominates the both company management and ownership from the moment in 1968 when he establishes it. Yet closely-held status, or even majority share ownership by any one person, is ultimately unrealistic for a firm which such inexhaustable capital needs. By the beginning of the 2000s, the company has seriously underperformed for years, yet the issue of who is responsible for deciding policy only really comes to a head when provoked by Del Prado's later attempt to have his son succeed him as CEO. Then the Del Prados are faced with an insurgent attempt by a coalition of private funds to take the company in a direction they do not desire. These profound questions of shareholder vs. management control provoke a landmark case in Dutch law to resolve them. But legal matters apart, students are asked to examine such issues from the viewpoint of what is best for ensuring the continued success of the firm.


A paragon of the Silicon Valley start-up ethos (and with a solid internal culture known as “The HP Way”), by the turn of the 21st century Hewlett-Packard has become a leading worldwide provider of personal computer equipment (particularly laptops), printers and other accessories. Yet shortly thereafter the company loses its way, in a period marked by a series of chief executive officers unsuited to the task, each in his/her own way, to the point that by 2010 the company seems fundamentally confused about which business it desires to be in. This case provides a history of that downfall of a high-tech icon (still ongoing to this day), with an emphasis on missteps at the Board level (e.g. CEO selection).


Few other fields have been impacted by the pace of technological change as publishing, and this case illustrates the recent history of what was once a dominant player in the Dutch newspaper, magazine and textbook market. Spurred by the urgent need to change in order to survive, it offloads most of these holdings in favor of becoming mainly a multinational provider of business information, highlighted by the acquisition of Nielsen Media Research. Students are invited to analyze and ponder the necessity of the wrenching transformation its executives put VNU through over a period of less than ten years.


Koninklijke Wessanen is a Dutch foodstuffs/drinks/consumer products company with a rich history in its home country and an aggressive record of spreading to international markets after World War II. By the turn of the 21st century, however, the firm seemed to have lost its way: its financial performance was abysmal, mainly due to an ill-advised push it had made into the US market for “wellness” products (i.e. specialty foods). The case is mainly the tale of the executive who came to Royal Wessanen's rescue: Ad Veenhof, formerly of Philips Electronics, who engineered a turn-around (despite an accounting scandal within US operations) with what he called his “Operation Phoenix.” Yet at what point does a savior's aura fade, so that he becomes more of a hindrance than a help? How much must the company's performance decline – and maybe it is just an outlier result - before that once-savior chief executive has to go?


This case deals with a typical episode of private equity investment, in which a private fund buys out the underperforming division of a larger company in order to improve its operations and profitability, with a view towards a lucrative “exit” several years down the road. In this case the acquired firm, CODI International B.V., is a manufacturer of “wet wipes” cleaning/hygienic products, with a healthy Europe-wide market presence and therefore good prospects if some investment can be devoted to upgrading and rationalizing its operations. The entrepreneur brought in to take over the newly independent firm, however, has even greater ambitions for CODI and pushes a “MAXICODI” plan for yet further investment to attempt a major market push – something ordinarily contrary to the limited “in-and-then-out” aims of the private equity investors. Students must judge whether this plan merits implementation nonetheless.


In the Netherlands, housing corporations have historically occupied a middle ground as a hybrid between a commercial organization and a public entity with the mission of providing housing to all who need it. Recent years, however, have not only seen commercial considerations come to the fore, but also increasing political and fiscal (taxation) pressure exercised on them from the national government. Within the context of this tension the Portaal Housing Corporation, charged with managing wide holdings of housing estates throughout the middle of the country, is plunged into crisis when regional managers stage a revolt against the dictatorial management style of the managing director. Students must ponder how to restore amity within the executive suite while carrying through a centralizing restructuring plan.


This case takes the unique approach of positing a notional multinational agri-business firm (“Globo-Ag”) and asking students to act as the nominating commitee for that company's new Chief Executive Officer. The basis by which students are to decide among the four leading candidates for the CEO position is their positions on the issue of how best to fashion organizational structures and company operating policies to best ensure maximal employee satisfaction, loyalty and productivity. Students are presented in turn with four policy responses, one from each of the notional CEO candidates, setting out their varying philosophies of and approaches to human resources policy, and are then asked to rate and rank them.


Issues of supervision take on another nature entirely when what is at issue is a major public infrastructure installation and the major political struggles which arise over the question of its disposition. Such was certainly the case when it came to the issue of privatizing Schiphol Airport, one of the major publicly-owned assets in the Netherlands, which enjoys worldwide fame while fostering an extensive and lucrative hive of economic activity (extending even into neighboring lands) around itself. The economically liberal Dutch national government of the late 1990s and early 2000s (known as Paars, or purple, from the mixture of coalition party partners) was determined to privatize Schiphol in order to make its operation more efficient, to enable it to compete against dynamic foreign airports, and at the same time to harvest financial gains for the public treasury. However, quite apart from questions which still remained as to how best to accomplish that, the initiative steadily encountered resistance from various political quarters. Can it ultimately succeed? This case provides students with a wide survey of the points-of-view of all major parties to this episode.


This case presents the extraordinary turn-around engineered at Royal Numico (a specialized nutrition company, previously covered in another Nyenrode case under its old name Nutricia) by a team of managers formed and led by Jan Bennink. Company fortunes were at a low ebb by the beginning of 2002, as massive collective effort and finances were required to try to shore up an ill-advised venture into the American “neutraceutical” (i.e. over-the-counter health aid) market. Bennink put Numico on a brand new course by divesting the neutriceutical assets and re-orienting the company to a sustained strategy of gaining greater “share of stomach” among an expanded target audience of not only infants but also small children (or rather, these children's parents).


This case introduces one of Amsterdam's main city hospitals and its efforts to adapt to a newly required “Supervisory Board” governance model newly prescribed for all Dutch healthcare institutions over a certain minimum size. This transition is complicated by deep institutional divisions between administrative personnel on the one hand and medical specialists on the other, but even more so by a management emergency which leads to a supervisory board member being called upon to take up executive responsibilities to save the situation. What considerations must be examined to ensure that such a demanding shift in responsibilities can be carried out successfully?


Cultural organizations offer their own unique challenges when it comes to effective supervision and management. This case examines changing structures of control over Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam's modern city opera house which houses both The Dutch Opera and The National Ballet companies, from their halcyon days prior to 1993 when they had no independent supervision to which to answer, through the forming of Articles of Association in that year, and then especially to the reform of this system spurred in 2006 by the promulgation of a national Code of Cultural Governance. That Code reflected the increased attention to the proper supervision of societal organizations of all types that was characteristic of the time, but since 1993 various institutional strains and imbalances had come to light within the governing structure of Het Muziektheater's resident companies. Students are asked to devise a new structure better able to take these latter into account to ensure the best future combination of accountability with artistic dynamism.


The Dutch analogue to such blockbuster US company failures of the early 2000s as Enron and WorldCom was Royal Ahold, the holding company formed around a core of the Albert Heijn supermarket chain which had grown to dominate retail food sales in the Netherlands in the decades after the Second World War. After many years of spectacular growth, the company was hit in 2003 with multiple scandals involving such misdeeds as accounting fraud at foreign subsidiaries, bribery, and false financial reporting. This case gives an extensive summary of the firm's history from its beginning up to that point when its world seemed to collapse. Where there alarming factors and warning signs that should have tipped off top management as to what lay in store?


Being responsible for the fortunes of a fast-growing technology firm can often feel like riding a tiger. As a pioneer in the new accounting service of “audit recovery” (i.e. identifying and correcting systematic Accounts Payable errors for high-volume retail businesses), the Atlanta-based Profit Recovery Group came from nowhere to become a Wall Street darling with its explosive expansion. The inevitable problems cropped up when that growth started to falter. How could it be sustained? Should it be sustained? Students are asked to evaluate the company's growth strategy and its structure of priorities.


UUnder the leadership of Dutch entrepreneur Xander van Meerwijk, Merison seized an exclusive niche as being solely responsible to the Dutch supermarket giant Albert Heijn (an Ahold subsidiary) for the selection of non-food products (e.g. household goods, cooking utensils, crockery) offered for sale in its stores, which soon came to include customer loyalty campaigns using luxury non-food products as rewards. It was a lucrative position – but also a vulnerable one, with heavy dependence on one big customer and on contracts that had to be renewed periodically. Students are asked to evaluate Merison's various efforts to ensure a more stable financial future for itself, including an effort to branch out into providing information and other wholesale services via the Internet to national white goods retailers.


This Austrian-based sporting goods company is known today primarily for its “Head” line of tennis rackets, popular among many leading players in the professional tennis circuit. But in 1995 it was a state-run enterprise threatened with bankruptcy. The case tells of the successful turn-around campaign executed by the Swedish entrepreneur Johan Eliasch that brought Head Tyrolia Mares back to prominence in the world sporting-goods market, and not only in tennis equipment. Still, it remained a small company competing in a market-segment where there were multi-nationals involved (and also fighting off a European Commission court case) – what course did Head Tyrolia Mares need to take to build further on its success?


By means of a novel exercise called the “Michaelangelo Project,” Prof. Lachotzki and an entire Nyenrode International MBA class worked to assist Nutricia (a leading Dutch-based nutrition company) in working out a common philosophical vision about what defined that company – a vision that would unite all of its varying divisions in a common effort and which was supposed to provide guidance into the future. In this case students evaluate to what degree such an exercise is valuable and the company can be relied upon to follow the guidance that is forthcoming from it.