The practice of advanced management learning

Developing both individual managers and the organisation for maximum benefit

During the economic downturn of recent years, learning and development (L&D) managers seem to have become ever more aware of the need to justify investing in management development activities, as have senior executives themselves. The investment is not just financial but also the time spent away from the office, family and other important things in life. Learning is a big commitment by both the individual and their organisation. So how do both parties get the most from the investments they do decide to make?

Individual managers usually seek to develop the skills and knowledge they think will help advance their careers. Different managers, of course, have different needs, so the obvious first consideration is selecting a programme that targets their specific learning requirements. If we chose a programme that suits our personal needs, we are far more likely to commit to learning and using the new ideas that emerge. Today, the development needs of senior executives and general managers are not usually technical but are often relational and concerned with the complexities and uncertainties of delivering with and through others.

While the organisation usually wants to support its managers in developing their careers, even more important is that they return not just able or wanting to make a difference by applying what they have learned – but that they return and actually do make a difference. And that is the holy grail for L&D – return on investment!

We have senior executives returning from their chosen programme with great intentions and organisations wanting them to apply what they have learned. So why is it often so difficult to make learning stick? The IEDP’s 2011 conference ‘Asleep on the Watch’, identified a key challenge being individual managers returning alone to the same old organisational system that blocks anything much from changing at all. We all know the ‘Oh they’ve been on a course…’ syndrome!

Henley’s new programme in Advanced Management Practice seeks to use a number of things we know about effective, ‘sticky’ advanced management development and improving return on L&D investment to overcome these challenges and meet the needs of both individuals and their organisation.

  1. Insights are offered and skills developed covering significant advanced management challenges faced today – managing in complexity and uncertainty, leading change, organisation culture and performance, power and politics – challenges our research suggests that both managers and their organisations are concerned about.
  2. By offering some sessions as electives, we give individual managers a choice of where to spend some of their programme time – a traditional journey around subjects such as finance, marketing and operations, or an opportunity to explore hot topics like innovation, digital futures and corporate reputation – so improving the programme’s relevance.
  3. Extensive use of individual coaching and peer-group action learning before, during and after the programme offers a further personalisation of the experience, and a chance to address some live organisation issues. Post-programme activities reinforce learning for the longer term.
  4. The introduction of organisation ‘sponsors’ – a colleague or mentor who takes an active part in elements of the programme with the participant, supports and challenges the participant to apply their learning in practice and helps them release blockages back in the organisation where possible. The sponsor will also have the opportunity to benefit from some of the programme’s learning themselves.