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Executive Development: Why impact tracking is so important

By Wendy Shepherd
Understand impact drivers and track the changes to benchmark the performance of specific programmes, cohorts, and individuals.


We know that when it comes to executive development nothing works for all people in all contexts.  There are however some common drivers of impact that can aid our understanding of what is working, for whom, and in which contexts.

These common drivers fall into five categories of change:


  • Communications:  Including the initiation of new conversations and changes in how participants communicate.
  • Sense-making:  Including problem setting and solving, changes in logic, interpretation and understanding.
  • Alignment: Including prioritisation, alignment with strategies and culture, and the creation of synergies across silos.
  • Engagement: Including changes in discretionary effort and commitment to the organisation, its strategies and policies.
  • Relationships: Including changes in breadth and depth of relationships.


By tracking changes in each of the five categories we can benchmark the performance of specific programmes, cohorts, and individuals, allowing us to identify what is working and what is not working so well.



The above chart is for a customised programme benchmarked against a norm group.  The programme appears to be working well, but a more detailed look however reveals differences across cohorts:



Cohort 3 was unusually high at 100% across all drivers.  This cohort was the first face to face after the pandemic.  The programme director noted that there was a real sense of excitement amongst the participants.  Perhaps that excitement drove the value they gained from the development? Or did they have pressing challenges that the programme addressed?  

The reasons can be established by interviewing members of the cohort and comparing their responses to members of other cohorts.  The lessons learned can then be put into practice to improve the impact for future cohorts.

At Cranfield School of Management we have been comparing the impact of our programmes using the five Impact Drivers for four years.  We are starting to see differences in the strengths of different methods and types of programme.  Some of these insights confirm what we intuitively knew, however, others are more surprising.


Learn more about Cranfield's Design for Impact™ here.

This article was first published on LinkedIn.




Tags: executive development, article

Cranfield Executive Development