Cranfield School of Management, a pioneer in executive education for over 40 years, has recently refreshed its popular portfolio of general management programmes to reflect the learning priorities of client organisations and potential participants today.
Camilla Jonsson, General Management Portfolio Director, describes how Cranfield has shaped its general management portfolio to meet clients’ changing needs.
Refreshed portfolio for 2019
The suite of four programmes offered in 2019 focuses on the four key transition points in any management career:
- Talent Development Programme: Gives early career executives a managerial perspective and strengthens their leadership capability.
- General Management Programme: Helps functional managers/experts acquire a broader business perspective and move up to corporate leadership roles.
- Into Director Programme: Supports experienced managers in becoming directors and joining the senior management team.
- Purpose: An ‘experience’ designed for senior leaders to cultivate purpose to create a more engaged and meaningful legacy.
The key factors of transition and impact
Two predominant factors motivate clients to engage with executive programmes, says Camilla Jonsson, General Management Portfolio Director, Cranfield School of Management:
Firstly, accelerated transition: “Clients want to support their high-performing ‘talent,’ to enable them to take up or inhabit a wider role more quickly and more securely, rather than leaving to happenstance whether people transition in or not.” Clients also want their people to be equally well equipped with ‘soft’ as well as ‘hard’ skills. “Clients seek ‘interwovenness’ between leadership, interpersonal capabilities and business-savvy decision making,” says Jonsson.
Secondly, impact in the organisation: Clients are keener than ever to the see the impact executive learning initiatives have in the organisation. “Both mid-market businesses and really big corporates can become quite internally focused, so they want their leaders to get an external perspective, which they get in an open programme setting with peers with similar needs but from a diverse mix of industries,” says Jonsson. “Coming on a programme like ours, to transition into a wider, more senior role with more discretion, is about not just what you do but also who you get to know.”
"The rhetoric around the value to the organisation of talent, engaging talent, helping talent to accelerate has become clearer over time."
Leadership development is a boardroom issue
Cranfield has seen a change in clients’ perspectives over the past five or six years, in that the need to develop potential talent has become a priority in organisations – leadership development has become a senior boardroom issue. “The rhetoric around the value to the organisation of talent, engaging talent, helping talent to accelerate has become clearer over time. And leadership pipeline/leadership transition language has become very embedded in organisations,” says Jonsson.
In recent years, informed by insights from behavioural science and neuroscience, executive development work on inter-personal and personal leadership skills has got more sophisticated and gained a higher prominence. It is now well understood that effective leadership involves a combination between business skills and personal mastery and this understanding is a motivating factor for clients to put their people on executive programmes.
Responding to how adults learn
There has also been a complete move away from ‘chalk and talk’. “In the Talent Development Programme, there is still a certain need for knowledge development and awareness raising, but the minute you get higher up, it's about andragogy. It's about learning by doing and by experience and by reflection. This is a noticeable change,” says Jonsson.
According to Jonsson the Talent Development Programme “flies off the shelf,” with some larger organisations using it as part of their talent management strategy, linking it to their organisational processes internally. The programme helps them identify the potential talent they will invest in for the future, on the understanding it then becomes up to the individual whether they have the drive needed to realise that potential.
The General Management Programme is for established functional managers now needing to widen out their sphere of influence, to work more broadly across functions and take people with them, sometimes without authority. With its links to Cranfield University, one on the UK’s leading centres of engineering and technology, the School of Management often attracts engineering managers or heads of IT, who as technical experts have achieved a lot and might be ambitious, need help to improve their ability to influence others, engage on the interpersonal level, and develop the self-knowledge and self-insight needed to be successful leaders.
On three of the programmes – Talent Development, General Management and Into Director – Cranfield partners with Mercuri Urval. Mercuri Urval offers a suite of instruments and coaching sessions to each individual participant, enabling them to understand their own potential, where they are in terms of motivation and drive, and link this directly into the programme that they are on. According to Jonsson, “This creates a career development platform for them… What it does very well is it predicts: what is my potential and ability to, say, in three years’ time, take up a director role? or what do I really need to develop to be able to realise my true potential?”
"By immersive, we mean the intensity of learning experience, working on the cognitive, behavioural and values levels, and on personal capabilities."
Finding your purpose
The Purpose experience is new and comes about from discussions had over many years with senior leaders of big organisations – CEOs and PLC board directors – who can often feel they are flying solo. They have been in very structured, high profile, corporate environments for probably their whole career, and are now being invited to contribute more widely by joining think-tanks, or becoming non-executive board directors, or chairing charities or boards of governors – new settings in which they can feel lost. This Purpose ‘experience’ (Jonsson hesitates to call it a programme) offers these senior people the chance to spend time with like-minded people, and build an anchoring network, and through deep introspection and reflection to find the inner purpose that can help them set a course for the final part of their careers.
Intensity of learning experience
Commenting on the pedagogy underpinning the refreshed programme portfolio, Jonsson stresses the importance of the ‘immersive’ element. “By immersive, we mean the intensity of learning experience, working on the cognitive, behavioural and values levels, and on personal capabilities. It's about the intensity of introspection, learning new ideas, trying out thinking and doing… So it's a lot of exploration, experimentation, experiential exercises and reflective sessions.”
The aim of this approach is to close the gap between what is learnt and how it is implemented – the knowing/doing gap. Immersive is about taking experiential learning and weaving it into the participant’s own work – applying new theoretical knowledge to the real world – and building the capabilities needed to do that. “Any time you try to do an initiative, you have to have very deep change capabilities, or influencing capabilities and engagement with people. So that's how it's all very interwoven and becomes immersive,” says Jonsson.
Technological advances in how we learn
Technology provides a further way the pedagogy has been refreshed. Moving the portfolio onto an electronic platform called Canvas, not only enables greater flexibility and convenience in delivery but also allows for programme participants to interact with faculty and amongst themselves more fully than before.
"All our research shows that what makes the difference is the engagement of the organisation and the line managers."
The all-important return on investment
Finally, Jonsson stresses the importance Cranfield places on measuring impact – to ensure the learning experience has a long-term impact not only for the individual but for the organisation too. There are two formal review points for each participant. The first one, face-to-face three months after the programme, confirms a detailed plan signed off with the participant’s sponsor, focuses on what they both observed in terms of changes from the programme. The second involves people coming together in small facilitated action learning groups to share what they have tried and how it's gone.
The other key component in terms of impact is the commitment of the client organisation to supporting the programme participants and to taking on board new ideas and new practices they can bring. “All our research shows that what makes the difference is the engagement of the organisation and the line managers,” says Jonsson.