Is there a significant overlap between the analysis and fact finding that has to be done to specify the type of management development project that will suit a particular organization and the work that a business consultancy would undertake?
There is a great deal of overlap, but of course the aim of a business consultancy is very different. It is usually concerned with business process transformation of one sort or another. Our role is simply to understand the problem or set of challenges that is being faced and to then define what that means in terms of management competencies. However, because the starting-point is always the business as it is—with all that means in terms of internal politics and the dynamics going on inside the organization—getting to the heart of the problem can pose its own significant challenges. It may be, for example, that the processes or strategies devised at the center, at head office level, for example, are not working at a regional level for reasons that no one has clearly articulated. Getting people to speak up honestly and clearly so that we can design the appropriate course for them can be a nontrivial exercise!
The precontract phase of the relationship, then, between the business school and a prospective client will often involve multiple meetings, negotiations, and renegotiations. This whole phase—before there is an agreed contract for a management development project—may take anything from nine to 18 months.
How important is management development as a revenue stream for the business school?
The whole business of executive development is a major part of Cranfield’s budget and is a very successful part of our operation. But it has not been easy to grow this side of our business to its current proportions. The market for management development is a very sophisticated one. If you look at the corporate market, a company’s value proposition can differ markedly depending on where in the world it is located. In Asia, for example, the focus when it comes to defining the value proposition could be on excellent customer service and delivery. In a developed market the focus may well be on discipline on costs, given the competitive pressure on margins. So it would be a mistake for a business school to develop too generic an approach to management development.
Under tight economic conditions, for an organization to achieve its value proposition depends on the whole of the top team identifying with the proposition and pushing hard to achieve it, irrespective of how it plays in their particular locality. Client companies know this, and they are very sophisticated buyers. They are well beyond generic programs. They want fundamental skill building that will give them the capacity that makes the difference for them and will enable them to outperform the competition, or at least to bring them up to the point where they can compete against the best in their class.
Of course, we do run functional programs, such as courses on financial skills for nonfinancial managers. But these courses are aimed at middle management groups—for example, specialists in sales who have not been exposed to finance. These programs assist individuals, but they don’t make the real competitive difference that companies are looking for from management development. An example of a more generic course that addresses the ability to make a real difference would be a course on strategic leadership for CEOs, or the nonexecutive course we run specifically for board members.
For a CEO-level course, what we would be looking at is a workshop approach. This might involve, say, a finance director who has been identified by the organization for the top role coming in and working through a series of problem-solving workshops around the role of the CEO and the issues the CEO faces. The content here, in other words, is the experience that goes with the role, rather than a specific competency such as leadership.
- Page 3 of 5
- Previous section Does the client organization, then, already have a clearly articulated sense of the business or operational challenge that it is facing when it seeks to enlist the help of a business school in developing a course for its management team?
- Next section What does the business school bring to the party that the organization itself could not provide as an internal initiative in management development?