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Physician Heal Thyself - Part 3

By David Deegan
DD blog 3
Cranfield Executive Development (CED) took on board their own good advice when they created and delivered an impactful development journey for their own people.


Here is the third and final part of our series in which David Deegan shares intentions, insights and learnings from CED's own development journey.


Part 3: What happened

You may have read in the previous instalments that the learning journey was well-received, and the post-module evaluations told us that our people were being experiencing powerful reactions.

But all learning professionals know that the “happy sheets” are simply a snapshot in time, and having an enjoyable/ interesting/ challenging (insert the adjective of your choice) doesn’t guarantee the learning will be translated into action. Nor does it guarantee that those actions will lead to transformative impact for either the individual or the business.

In Part 1, I shared our Director, Mark Threlfall’s strategic aim for this learning journey:  "I want to equip CED with the capability to meet client requirements as we continue to grow in size. I want to strengthen the “red-thread, high-touch” model that we provide our clients. It is our unique selling point, so I want to develop our organisational capability to provide that USP consistently.” He went on to state that “We can only achieve that if every individual continually shifts the needle on their personal practice, building both their capabilities and confidence. Furthermore, we need to engage and retain the talent we have, and build our succession capability.”

To determine whether this had been realised, we conducted confidential follow-up evaluation 12 months after it finished.


So what actually happened?

As a starting point we looked at our own Design For Impact © drivers developed by our colleague Dr Wendy Shepherd:


91% reported having initiated new conversations and changed the way they communicated with others. Furthermore, all of them reported noticing how it had positively impacted either their personal performance, the performance of team members, or the performance of the business. Here are some examples:

“Developing a more high level and strategically relevant approach has helped engage potential clients in pitches.”

 “I have more effective discussions with faculty about clients’ needs for customised and contextualised programmes.”  

“When in a meeting with [client name] I had to negotiate the fees for the next iteration of the programme. When putting my points forward, I slowed down and was not afraid of the silence.  We came away with a fee agreeable to all, and also other sales opportunities for us; Online Stackable and Open Programmes.”


100% reported an enhanced ability to solve problems, and 80% reported having used this to solve organisational challenges. Here are some examples:

“I approached the [client name] pitch using the Peter Block consultancy material; engaging the stakeholders and building the relationship, understanding what's important to them as an organisation, working with the key contact to understand the audience and the approach to take.”

“With [client name] my role and the CPM's roles with this account were blurred and I was not working the account as effectively as we could. Module 4 was really insightful as we got the full picture of the role of the red thread - who was accountable and who was responsible for the account. Straight after this module we refocused roles to work more effectively. This approach has been my starting point with every client project since.”

“I am able to talk more directly with HR and LD managers about the needs of their organisations, this has meant I feel more 'at home' in the role that I have, as well as a wider understanding of general organisational needs.”

“From the Design session I can now identify the most critical skills and competencies needed to achieve the organisation's objectives and the importance of alignment for overall success.”

Alignment and Engagement

90% reported an increase in motivation. 80% reported shifting their priorities, and all of them reported how this had improved performance. Here are some examples:

“At the end, I absolutely felt more motivated and committed to CED. It set high expectations of values and behaviours moving forward.”

“This clear sense of where CED want to be is helping my team to work towards a common goal, which inevitably has improved collaboration and teamwork within my department.”

“I gained an insight and understanding of what I am capable of; this was more than I ever gave myself credit for.”

“Being with everyone else on the journey, and seeing that everyone believes in you, gave me that personal belief that I can do this and that I can continually push myself to improve.”


100% reported having developed new relationships that were beneficial to themselves and/or the business. Here are some examples:

“Through the journey it allowed [colleague name] and I to understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses and now we play to those more when working on projects.”

“The biggest impact from the relationship with my mentor has been the encouragement and belief I've been given. I have attempted to do more, and stretched myself in the projects I’ve worked on since then.”

“Being more proactive at both growing and working my LinkedIn network has surfaced several new business opportunities we never would have known about otherwise.”


Other measures of impact included:

  • Retention: 92% of colleagues remain with Cranfield. We have kept our talent close.
  • Promotion and Role Enhancement: 25% were promoted to higher grades, and a further 42% have reconfigured and broadened their roles to bring their strengths to the fore.

  • Business Impact: 45% of those with their own client accounts have grown them beyond each annual budgeted projection. (Note to self: we need to set higher budgets.)
All cited examples of working more effectively and efficiently:

“The programme has enhanced my credibility and reputation with clients. As a result I have been able to close more complex deals.”

“I now deliver part of the [client name] programme which reduces reliance on external partners.”

“I am far better at "holding the space" in the classroom, and being relevant and engaging to the audience.” 

“Being more active with the client, and particularly in the classroom, has freed up time for [colleague name] to focus on his other clients.”


In summary, we achieved all the elements of Mark Threlfall’s strategic aim and feel we now have a much stronger community of practice within CED that will enable us to support our clients’ goals even more effectively.


So what next?

Part of Mark Threlfall’s aim was that “every individual continually shifts the needle on their personal practice”. During our long-term evaluation, when I asked one of my colleagues if she had achieved her objectives on the CED Learning Journey, the answer she gave is a very apt response to “So what next?”

“This was a long journey and there is no destination. Were the objectives fulfilled? No; of course not David. This is a continuous journey.”

Clearly the baton for the next part of the journey has been well and truly grasped.


Tags: executive development, interview

Cranfield Executive Development