Asda Case Study - Getting on in Asda
This is the second of three articles highlighting the positive impact created by the Cranfield Level 7 Senior Leader Apprenticeship. I interviewed four senior leaders in Asda; Clare Connelly-Spry, Chris Gilmartin, David Marshall and Liz Richards. In the first article they described the impact of the programme on their colleagues, customers and communities. Here I asked them to share their thoughts on how the programme had impacted them at a personal level.
All four of them described how the programme was, in different ways, helping them to get on in Asda. Every one of them recognise that networking, building internal partnerships and fostering collaborative relationships, are activities that are not only critical for “getting the day job done”, but also important for one’s own career development. They all create moments of visibility where you can be noticed, but as Chris, a General Store Manager, put it “You need to be noticed for the right things”.
Chris went on to describe how what he had learnt in the programme had enabled him to put fresh ideas in front of an Asda Senior Vice President (SVP). When the SVP had visited the store, the idea had piqued their interest so much they will be returning to the store soon to explore how those ideas can be put into action. “So not only has the course helped me get noticed for doing the right things, so are my colleagues and my store.”
Clare, a Senior Legal Manager, told me “In any large organisation, if you are going to progress, then you need to differentiate yourself, and the learning on the programme has helped me to do that. People have commented that they see me differently now. They have noticed the way I hold myself in difficult conversations, that I reflect more. I encourage others to reflect and to be more self-reliant. I am empowering others to make decisions. And all of those things are being noticed.”
"People have commented that they see me differently now. They have noticed the way I hold myself in difficult conversations, that I reflect more. I encourage others to reflect and to be more self-reliant. I am empowering others to make decisions. And all of those things are being noticed.”
David, a Senior Manager in Automation, said that “Right now, in our organisational structure there is no specific role immediately above me. But that doesn’t mean I have nothing to aim for. There are other career trajectories that will enable me to get on in Asda. But I need to take the responsibility for figuring out the one I want and how to get there, and doing the apprenticeship is helping me to do that. It has also helped me to understand how to progress my career authentically. I dislike sycophantic behaviour; I want to be recognised for my worth, so I am developing relationships at a wider level not just a senior level, and doing it in an authentic way.”
I asked David what he meant by ‘authentic networking’ and he explained, “I have identified the individuals with whom I need to be visible, but more importantly I also identified the things that will genuinely interest them, that they will find valuable. If I hadn’t done the module on Strategic Leadership, worked out the answers to the 5 Strategic Questions we were posed, and then joined all the dots as I wrote the assignment, I would have struggled to identify what those people would find valuable.”
Chris had similar views on ‘authentic networking’, describing it as “networking effectively but respectfully”. He found that learning about ‘power platforms’, recognising why an understanding of office and corporate politics is so important, has helped him to network respectfully.
For this group of senior leaders it has been a long time since their last experience of formal education, and they were hungry for professional development.
All four of them talked about how the breadth of content on the programme has been crucial to that professional development, because it has given them a richer understanding of how business operates.
Clare said “Professional development doesn’t often come along in the day job. I wanted to develop an understanding of the world of business. My background is law and compliance, but this is only one aspect of the business. Learning about so many different facets and aspects of the world of business has enabled me to gain a much bigger, richer picture, of Asda, of retail, of industry.”
"Learning about so many different facets and aspects of the world of business has enabled me to gain a much bigger, richer picture, of Asda, of retail, of industry.”
Liz described how the course “Brought the outside world into Asda. I realised that so much of what we do is transferable – we are leaders in the broadest sense.”
All four recognised that the programme was a learning journey of personal development, and that the ownership of that journey came from them.
In the first module we describe how recognition of “preparedness and opportunity” as the real elements of power are key to personal progression, and all of them had taken this on board.
"This programme will propel us to the next level, it develops you, enables you to be vulnerable. But it is still down to me to choose to be vulnerable and open to learning.”
Clare told me, “Asda has a continuous learning mentality, but to take advantage of that you have to own the process. I wanted Asda to engage a high calibre institution and was so pleased when I found out that it was Cranfield. This programme will propel us to the next level, it develops you, enables you to be vulnerable. But it is still down to me to choose to be vulnerable and open to learning.”
Liz also felt that the Cranfield programme was more than just a series of academic modules, that it was a journey that would have a lasting impact, and for that she was grateful. “Asda is supporting us to grow as people – nobody can take that away from us.”
The Cranfield Level 7 Senior Leader Apprenticeship is impacting on the professional and personal development of Asda’s leaders. In the final article in this series we will share why this programme is so effective.
Discover more about the Cranfield Level 7 Senior Leader Executive Programme:
This interview was conducted as part of Cranfield's celebration of National Apprenticeship Week 2023