21 Jan Leadership Development Case Study
To develop the next generation of leaders who together would significantly grow the company, maintain its philosophy and champion a culture created by the company founders.
The Leadership Development Program design needed to address the following challenges:
- Utilize the collective company and industry knowledge of senior executives in different functional roles
- Provide a learning experience that was relevant to participants’ day jobs and future roles within the company
- Remain practical and applicable to the overall corporate strategy and show clear results from the team initiatives
An action learning format provided the program foundation. Participants worked in cross-functional teams towards a shared goal of providing significant contribution to the company’s bottom line and/or competitive position. Teams progressed through the phases of a major project while they received just-in-time training, coaching, mentoring and the tools necessary to succeed. Each three-person team went through the following steps over the course of four (4) months:
- Identify opportunities to either drive new revenue or decrease operational costs
- Select one high potential opportunity and create a business case presentation to senior executives for implementation approval
- Lead the project implementation to include engaging and influencing most areas of the company
- Measure results of their efforts related to the presented opportunity
Throughout the project course, each team was supported by an executive mentor who provided significant knowledge about their project focus and guidance to keep the team on track.
The Leadership Development Program produced significant business results across two (2) dimensions: leadership maturation and organizational learning.
The most profound and meaningful learning for the participants was a result of their own reflections and experiences at each stage of the project. While they learned helpful theories, methods and tools, their biggest “A-Ha” moments resulted from breakthroughs in their own thinking or consequences of their actions.
Participants identified the following key areas of learning:
- “Seeing opportunities” and not dismissing ideas because they seemed too simple.
- Presenting to senior management and the importance of being brief, highlighting the key benefits and knowing when to stop “selling.”
- Pre-selling ideas before “official” meetings within the organization.
- Optimizing an internal process can generate revenue as much as cutting costs.
- Big picture ideas are great, but smaller, more manageable projects often have greater yield.
- Asking a lot of questions in the beginning and organizing accordingly.
- Being flexible with ideas and visions in order to easily adapt within a fast changing environment.
- Making sure everyone has a clear understanding and agreement on the objectives, deliverables and goals.
- Recognizing the incredible value of working interdepartmentally.
The breadth of the opportunities addressed in the program required involvement from nearly the entire company. In doing so, it expanded the cross-functional learning and discovery process to all employees who were involved. As participants learned what they could achieve by acting as leaders within a team, so did all those who were tangentially involved in the projects.
ACTION LEARNING RESULTS
In the end, it is the participants’ own words that attest to the program success and the value of an action learning format in developing new leaders:
- “Good microcosm of the issues and opportunities that happen every day at our company.”
- “The team learned how to manage working in an unstructured environment, dealing with time pressures, and working with different personalities.”
- “Typically skills development is done through formal training in a seminar with a lecture, simulations, and/or role playing for a few hours, making it easy to go back to your day-to-day routine and old habits. The leadership project was an opportunity to develop long lasting skills over a four (4) month period working on a real challenge with actual benefits to the company.”