Ignacio Sánchez Galán became a Harvard professor for a day in mid-February.
The Chairman of Iberdrola was installed together with a dozen company executives in the Aldrich Hall of the University's business school, built thanks to a donation from John D. Rockefeller Jr, son of the oil magnate, to talk about energy renewable.
Galán discussed the new case study launched by the Harvard Business School live with the students.
He did it big, the way he likes it.
They gave 11 sessions of about a hundred students each.
About 1,000 students in one day.
Galán attended with his inseparable green tie, the color of the company and its commitment to renewable energy, and with which the
Iberdrola case begins, leading the energy revolution
prepared by Professor Juan Alcácer, James J. Hill Professor of Energy Administration. Business, which he hosted, accompanied by Rebecca A. Karp, Assistant Professor of Business Administration.
"The students reacted very positively to the participation of these managers," Professor Alcácer told EL PAÍS, who assures that the impression was so good that many have requested to do internships in the group.
Business schools use the case method as a teaching system.
A practical scenario (almost always real) that a company has faced is presented.
The students analyze it, discuss it first in groups and then discuss it in class under the guidance of the teacher, who tries to achieve a participative and enriching discussion.
The objective is to prepare students to make strategic decisions in companies through the practice of real situations.
That system was launched precisely at Harvard, in the Faculty of Law, at the beginning of the last century, but from there it has spread throughout the world, especially to business schools.
The cases of the Harvard Business School have a special aura and are licensed to other schools, explain sources in the sector.
There are items that are classics, a kind of
that have been taught for decades.
The fact that the business school or one of its professors chooses a company to write a case does not imply endorsement of the company as such, but very often it is.
In the case of Iberdrola, from the owner who leads it to the dilemma that is presented at the end, there is little doubt that the new case is a recognition of the company's success, especially in Galán's stage as a manager.
Professor Alcácer explains that he chose Iberdrola because the school's students are very interested in green energy issues, among other reasons.
“Iberdrola illustrates many of the points that we want to teach as elements of a good strategy: a clear vision of what the future should look like, excellence in executing plans, profitable growth”, points out the professor.
“It familiarizes our students with a leading company that comes from a different geography,” he adds.
Other Spanish cases
Iberdrola joins the list of Spanish companies that have attracted the attention of the Harvard Business School.
Curiously, it is not the first Spanish electricity company to arrive in its classrooms.
Holaluz, the most successful startup
in the sector, was ahead of him
, with a case published in 2020.
At Harvard, Glovo, the fast delivery company, and its international expansion are also being studied since 2021, with a focus on its entry into Kenya.
In 2020, the professor of organizational behavior Boris Groysberg published a case study on El Celler de Can Roca focused on innovation and the challenges that the pandemic posed for the Roca brothers and their restaurant.
In 2018, the school launched another on BBVA and corporate governance.
Gestamp, Ribera Salud, Bankinter, Ebro Puleva, Mondragón, elBulli or FC Barcelona, among others, are on a list in which Zara were pioneers (Amancio Ortega's firm is already on its second case) and Real Madrid of the galacticos in the first stage of Florentino Pérez.
The case of Iberdrola underlines that the appointment of Ignacio Galán as CEO of Iberdrola in 2001 (he assumed the presidency in 2006) was key in the commercial orientation of the company.
Galán came from Airtel, acquired by Vodafone, and in the telecommunications sector the fierce competition that he presented not only to the old monopoly, Telefónica, but also to the new entrant, Amena (later bought by Orange) is still remembered.
Galán's arrival also allowed the company to implement a growth strategy based on green energy and the reduction of its emissions before anyone in the sector had committed to the energy transition.
Time has shown that it was the right decision.
This commitment and a series of acquisitions have allowed Iberdrola to go from being the twentieth largest electricity company in the world to being the third in the world by market capitalization, multiplying its size and results by six, according to the text.
“The case illustrates how technological innovation and business models can exist in a mature and stable company”, explains Professor Alcácer.
The 46-page case, including annexes and notes, highlights over and over again the role of Iberdrola's president in this entire process.
He divides his presidency into three phases.
From 2001 to 2006, when he promoted an ambitious investment plan in combined cycle gas and wind energy.
He set the course for a company that was somewhat out of place after the failure of the merger project with Endesa and showed that it could grow strongly.
The second stage (2007-2017) is marked by international commitment and large acquisitions, such as the British Scottish Power in 2007, the American Energy East (which would later evolve into what is now Avangrid) in 2008 or the Brazilian Elektro in 2011, later integrated into Neoenergía.
In the third (starting in 2018), Iberdrola benefits from trends such as decarbonization, the electrification of the economy, technology, and connectivity.
The text reviews the three pillars of the company: the renewables business, the grid business –with regulated and stable income– and the customer business, with customized and innovative solutions.
The case closes at the end of 2019, while Galán adjusts his green tie to address a meeting with investors and prepares his notes: "I usually say that we are in a good sector, at a good time, in the best company," he quoted. the case, which asks students if it is worth redoubling the renewable bet with green hydrogen.
After explaining what it consists of, Professor Alcácer launches the questions for the debate: “Is green hydrogen going to be key in the energy revolution?
If so, in which of its uses should Iberdrola invest?
When is the right time to invest?
The answer and the debate is left to the discretion of the students and the results of a business that is still in its infancy remain to be seen, but the students had the opportunity last month to learn from Galán himself Iberdrola's answer: invest billions to try to be at the forefront of this new energy revolution.
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