Andrew Kakabadse is professor of international management development at Cranfield Business School. He was the H. Smith Richardson Fellow at the Center for Creative Leadership, North Carolina, in 2005–06 and is a visiting professor at the University of Ulster, Ireland, Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Australia, Thunderbird School of Global Management, Arizona, Université Panthéon-Assas (Paris II), France, and Swinburne University of Technology, Australia. His research covers boards, top teams, and the governance of governments. He has published 37 books, more than 220 articles, and 18 monographs. Kakabadse is coeditor of the Journal of Management Development and Corporate Governance: The International Journal of Business in Society. Among his most recent books are Bilderberg People: Elite Power and Consensus in World Affairs (with Ian Richardson and Nada Kakabadse), Rice Wine with the Minister: Distilled Wisdom to Manage, Lead and Succeed on the Global Stage (with Nada Kakabadse), and Global Boards: One Desire, Many Realities (with Nada Kakabadse).
If there are general competencies that all managers need, why are so few generic management development programs available from business schools? Why is there such a marked preference for bespoke courses?
The simple and straightforward answer is that the requirement to “skill up” a particular management cadre is almost always raised as a specific issue inside an organization and is driven by events and by the operational context of that organization. At the back of it there is always a problem that needs resolving. Every expenditure by a company or a public body needs to be justified. There is always at least an ad-hoc cost evaluation of the anticipated benefits against the probable costs. So, training initiatives at a senior level, which cost significantly in terms of time and money, have an inertial weight against them to begin with, and very few organizations are prepared to embrace the idea of generic training for senior management. They will sponsor or partly sponsor MBA candidates at lower to middle management level, but that is a different thing altogether.
This being the case, business schools have generally eschewed the idea of putting on generic management development courses, even though you could specify general management competencies that could go into such a course. Courses like that simply would not sell a sufficient number of places. As a result, management development training has evolved as a bespoke discipline geared to meet the particular challenges and problems of specific client organizations.
Is there much common material from course to course, or does everything have to be developed from scratch on each occasion?
The courses tend to have some basic elements that are common to all or to most courses, such as an introduction to leadership, or some of the psychological profiling that we use. But the challenges that the client organizations face make the courses very different from each other. There can be targeting by level, by function, and also by region or division within the organization.