Innovative Techniques in Executive Development


Companies have traditionally been willing to invest large sums in executive development without requiring much evidence of tangible business results. In most organizations there has been little demand for justification as far as executive development is concerned. There has been an intuitive belief that such development is a necessary, if low-priority, adjunct to the real challenges of running a business.

This attitude is changing. Companies are not generating the same profits in the same predictable way, and cannot afford any degree of largesse - even at the executive level. They need to look at the return on investment for every business activity, including executive development. Since conventional in-house and university executive programs are usually the most expensive of possible solutions to a problem situation, it is important to determine whether or not the benefits warrant the expenditure.

The fact is that such programs may help mask the real issues. Despite claims of "devolution" and "empowerment," many executives perceived as "good performers" tend to be short-term, fire-fighting, crisis managers. Others, having grown accustomed to the slow pace of decision-making within most large corporations, find it difficult to change their style and move to faster paced, computer-driven decision-making techniques. Such executives have been the survivors. Those who have not had to make many quick decisions and take too many risks have been rewarded by their organizations for not making mistakes

One reason that many organizations have not looked closely at these issues is that most top teams are not really teams! The individuals may actually get together as the senior management group, but they are all vying for the CEO's job, and will not raise the kinds of issues that most of them are unwilling to address. Therefore, for executive education groups, it may be simpler, and perhaps more politically expedient, to suggest that their clients attend the latest offerings from Harvard or INSEAD rather than face up to concerns over trust and communication.

This situation has to change. Business has been profoundly affected in recent years by sweeping changes in the global economic and political climate, by new and more aggressive competition in domestic and foreign markets, and by revolutionary new management philosophies.

Market and business environment trends are becoming increasingly dynamic, and enterprises must become increasingly "agile" if they are to survive. Traditional views of organizational flexibility (or the lack thereof) are proving inadequate for today's needs. Business leaders must respond to these unfamiliar challenges, and they must do so swiftly, effectively, and with conviction.

It is apparent to many companies that they do not have all the knowledge and skills they need to compete in the global marketplace. Many organizations featured in this presentation have been international companies for a long time. To be a global company, however, implies exchanging information and resources on a world-wide scale. It is a learning imperative that organizations share knowledge internally on how to survive in the global economy.

Globalization has been one of the strongest drivers for executive learning. As the competitive intensity of the global business environment continues to escalate, so does the need for highly competent business leaders. This turbulent climate demands that leaders possess exceptional skills in order to make the strategic decisions that will position their corporation advantageously amid complexity and rapid change.

Effective strategic decision makers differentiate themselves by their understanding of the indirect cause and effect linkages that underlie the apparent causal chains. The best decision makers understand how to analyze such indirect effects in order to fix a range of problems, rather than solving individual problems, one at a time. They recognize that leadership is required not only of those in positions of formal authority, but of every manager, even every employee. Today, corporate success depends upon "a company of leaders" - people at all levels of responsibility who embody the skills needed to lead the corporation to success. The job of the executive is to build a shared vision and develop the skills of those natural leaders, wherever they may be found.

Successful executives view management as simply one of the functions of leadership. Management is the ability to put stability into complex systems. Leadership is the ability to create change. The challenge is to maintain the balance between stability and change. This can be difficult for some to handle. In many cases, senior executives may have thirty years or more invested in the business. When you have that much experience in doing things one way, it is hard to change, to let go of control. What if change leads to failure?

Even if people are willing to change, maintaining ongoing commitment to personal development is a problem, especially when every day is filled with conflicting claims on an executive's time. If a company is really in trouble, executives will focus on the top two or three priorities; typically, their own development is not one of them.

Some companies do see executive development as the essential element that will give them competitive advantage, whereas others see it only as a necessary evil. This presentation focuses on those companies that believe their executive resources are, by and large, a vital source of improved corporate performance. Properly developed and utilized, these resources can give a company a decided advantage over its competitors.


This seminar will provide informative answers to the following questions:

  • What are the key present and future competencies for successful executives?
  • How should you determine executive development needs?
  • What role (if any) should various approaches (eg: 360-degree evaluations, assessment centers, coaching, job rotations, etc.) play in your executive development strategy?
  • What are some of the most innovative approaches that organizations have taken to enhance executive performance?
  • How should you measure the effectiveness of your executive development initiatives?
  • What are the critical success factors in designing and implementing an executive development program?
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