Jun 2, 2021 at 6: 06 pm

Connecting Strategy, Transformation and Finance

Successful business transformation comes from making a series of strategic decisions, aligning a large number of diverse players, and managing their culture, organization, finance and capital markets.

Christian Rangen


In business schools, most programs are taught separately – because of course, they are. Finance is a course taught by finance professors. Operations Management is taught by operations professors. Strategy, of course, is taught by strategy Professors.

This ‘division of labor’ makes perfect sense from the school’s point of view and the same thing is true for most companies. The finance people manage the financials, usually with a strict cost-cutting lens. The innovation people; well, nobody really knows what they do. Whereas, the strategy people are….working on strategy.

We have seen hundreds of organizations with these silos having limited success in creating shared understanding and alignment across functions and silos. A large engineering firm I was working with had the following starting point “Strategy team? We have one, but we have never seen it or met them. We work in the innovation team, so we don’t really have a reason to come across the strategy people.”

Back when our good friend and UK-based partner was working as an Innovation Manager at CISCO, he said “I started listening to the quarterly analyst calls. We were allowed to and even encouraged. For the first time, I actually understood what was important to our top management team”.

For a strategic business transformation to succeed, companies need to make a long series of strategic decisions, align a large number of diverse players, and manage their culture, organization, finance and capital markets. In the last BTC session, participants did a superb job in the ‘real life’ Exxon Case, but one thing that was overlooked was the numbers.


The key numbers for Exxon are interesting: $246BN market cap vs. $178BN revenue with ’only’ $68BN debt (Exxon doubled its debt over the past few years to continue to pay out dividends). Just looking at these numbers, Exxon is pretty good to go into the energy transition. If they choose to invest a significant cap into the growth ventures, they can probably handle it well.

On the other hand. Ford Motors has a debt that is three times its market cap. Principle #9: ‘Invest More’ is going to be very, very challenging for a company with the financials of Ford. Knowing that Ford has announced plans to invest $30BN into electric vehicles, autonomous, battery, EV manufacturing and their new transformation platform Ford+, it may actually be very challenging for Ford to fund their decade-long transformation journey.

Since life is never fair, I thought it would be fun to throw in the same numbers from Apple – the fruit company (if you ever watched Forrest Gump).

With a $2.2TR (trillion, not the puny billion), Apple has a market cap larger than many stock exchanges in the world. In theory, Apple has the same valuation as all the companies listed in Oslo and Stockholm Stock Exchanges combined – give or take a few billion dollars. How’s that for being dominant?

So what is the fun part here? Compare the Market Cap Multiple vs. Revenue for Exxon, Ford and Apple. That is the key number that reveals ‘future expectations and outlook’ from the capital markets.

So, why is this important? Well, strategy is all about choice. Where are we going and how are we getting there? Transformation is all about the speed of change and the roadmap to get there, but it is only when you bring in finance and capital markets that you realize how important the financial aspects and capital markets are. We can look at Ford and say “they should transform, invest $30BN – $100BN into EV and transform into a future-fit mobility company, drizzle some software on top and become a software mobility company”. However, the real challenge is to figure out how they are going to fund it.

How can we train leaders in these interconnected parts of transformation?

Over the past decade, we have supported a significant number of global companies in their transformation journeys. From energy companies in Asia to tech companies in Europe, the challenge has often been to get all the key stakeholders to ‘see the full picture’.

How can we get the operations people to understand the financial constraints and capital markets? How do we get the finance people to understand the strategic implications of investing far outside the traditional core business areas? We have designed tools and group exercises, run workshops, developed case studies, but it was only when we designed the first iteration of the Transform! Simulation that we saw the pieces ‘click’ for the participants. Suddenly, by putting people into the roles of management teams and leading actual transformation cases, the different lenses came together and people ‘got it’.

Since we first launched Transform! in early spring 2019, strategy directors, consulting partners, aviation CEOs, energy executives, board members, business school professors, national innovation agencies, executive students and participants from all over the world ‘brought transformation to life’ through the use of interactive, engaging and visual strategy simulation.

From our end, we got a tool, albeit a complex one, that allowed us to ‘show the full picture’ of a Transformation Journey. Just in the last three weeks, the Transform! Simulation has been used by DUKE (executive education), CIMBA (executive education), Energy company (in-house program), global automotive supplier (in-house development) and more.

If you are interested in discussing how transformation, strategy and leadership is changing, sign up our webinar “The Transformation Debate” on June 23, 14:45 (CEST).

Christian Rangen
Christian Rangen

Strategy & transformation advisor to companies, innovation clusters, ecosystems and governments around the world.


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