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Executive education - the real deal?

Executive Education has become very popular over the past couple of decades. Organizations recognized that as knowledge expanded rapidly, busy executives were not always affording themselves the time to keep up with changing developments, including technology, globalization and risk management. Universities and professional associations capitalized on increased demand for knowledge by establishing Executive Education programs.

Credentialing has become a major component in hiring and promotion, beyond the sciences and engineering. Compelling arguments were made for promotions in the public and private sectors for those with degrees and credentials.

But, with the economy continuing to recover from the recession of 2009, the threat of sequestration and departments seeking to avoid critical system cuts--how will executive education be impacted? Let's take a look at the components of Executive Education and see if organizations can maintain their commitment to their human capital.

Much research has been conducted on the value of Executive Education, including a paper written by Frank Lloyd, PhD, and David Perryman, M.A., at Southern Methodist University in 2006.

RAPID CHANGES FOR TODAY'S EXECUTIVES

"Today's rapidly changing business landscape demands a new approach to developing leaders. Research shows that top executives in large companies and a variety of sectors around the world believe that the following challenges reveal leadership shortages that put their business success at risk:

* Increased competitive pressures

* Rapidly changing market conditions

* Failure to innovate

* Satisfying customer demands" (1)

If we take a look at mid- and senior level leaders, it's likely they completed degrees some 15-30 years earlier. They've likely earned additional degrees later on, as well as attended some professional development courses. Yet, consider the rapid changes of the last 10-15 years:

* Global Supply Chain Security - the vulnerability of global supply chains to disruptive events, which had rarely, if ever, previously occurred. How many courses in global supply chain security have executives or the rest of us taken?

* Cyber Warfare - the vulnerability of systems which drive our supply chains to cyber warfare at an unprecedented level is of great concern today. Earlier thought processes that left Information Technology only to the IT department are no longer valid. Organizations must collaborate internally and externally to reduce vulnerability without reducing efficiency. How will today's leaders learn this?

Lloyd and Perryman go on to say, "This shortage of leadership talent comes at a time when leadership is becoming more complex. Leaders today must possess:

* Business acumen to set and implement strategies

* An understanding of how day to day decisions impact the overall performance of the company

* People skills required to engage and develop others

* Willingness to take values-based actions

SHORTAGES OF LEADERSHIP TALENT

Shortages of leadership talent and the complexity of leadership skills are driving growth in development activities for executives, managers, and high potentials. These investments are intended to create bench strength based on unity and alignment within management teams as well as enhanced individual skills and abilities." (2)

Universities are collaborating with organizations to customize executive education by leveraging instructional design and teaching expertise that increase organizational capabilities, far-reaching networks that can be leveraged to enrich educational experiences, and utilizing unique academic learning environments.

Executive Education is no longer using only the traditional classroom for learning, nor weekend retreats which are part learning and part networking, but rather a hybrid mix of solutions including real time distance learning and asynchronous online learning to accommodate busy work and travel schedules. These solutions are effective for capturing the attention of distracted executives, freeing up time for them to devote to home and work, and reducing costs with less travel to the classroom.

"While classroom instruction still involves traditional tools and techniques such as lectures, case studies, and simulations, more and more courses are integrating experiential and "action learning" components that allow participants to immediately apply what they learn to real, important, and relevant business problems," say Lloyd and Perryman.

ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF EXECUTIVE EDUCATION

So how will executives and their organizations assess the impact of executive learning? Universities and corporate clients can work together to develop assessments of impact in areas such as:

* Participants' reaction to the program

* Participants' learning from the program: subject matter expertise, best practices

* Participants' changes in behavior resulting from the program

* Leadership effectiveness: 360-degree feedback results

* Impact on business performance--revenue growth, improved processes, cost reduction--as a result of participant change in behavior

* Performance review ratings

* Promotion and retention

* Leadership alignment relative to mission and strategy: creation of in-company networks, interaction with senior executives (3)

Professional associations also offer executive education through professional development courseware, including certification. In the logistics world, organizations such as APICS, the Association for Operations Management, the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals and the Institute of Supply Management, all offer industry certification. These certifications are applicable for both private and public sector organizations. Institutions focused on the public sector include the Defense Acquisition University, primarily for government executives, but some space is also available for the private sector.

So we get to the bottom line. Do organizations benefit from executive education? Should they maintain a priority to keep funding their executives, even in times of economic difficulty? One answer to consider comes from a 2007 study by the. Academy of Management Learning and Education:

"Using evaluation data from variations of a single executive education program, we find that action-learning programs significantly enhance both individual and organizational outcomes compared to traditional executive educational format. Action-learning programs also enhance our teaching and research efforts. Building on these results and experiences, we suggest that executive education in general, and action learning in particular, are fertile contexts where business schools can bridge the relevance--rigor gap." (4)

The evolution to action learning, hybrid executive education is not only improving the quality of the executive, but the quality of business research leading to improved outcomes at organizations which use the research. There is therefore, a compounding benefit to executive education which will contribute to sustaining organizations in difficult times. We can apply the old adage, "You can pay me now with a very small amount, or pay me much more later to fix the problems" (assume we are still in business!).

Never stop learning because the benefits of learning will never stop.

(1) Frank Lloyd, PhD, and David Perryman, M.A., "The Case for University-Based Executive Education" 2006, Southern Methodist University

(2) Frank Lloyd, PhD, and David Perryman, M.A., "The Case for University-Based Executive Education," 2006, Southern Methodist University

(3) Frank Lloyd, PhD, and David Perryman, M.A., "The Case for University-Based Executive Education," 2006, Southern Methodist University

(4) Michael Tushman, et al, "Relevance and Rigor: Executive Education as Lever in Shaping Practice and Research," 2007, Academy of Management Learning and Education

Irvin Varkonyi, President, Supply Chain Operations Preparedness Education (SCOPE) ivarkonyi@scopedu.com
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Title Annotation:PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Author:Varkonyi, Irvin
Publication:Defense Transportation Journal
Date:Apr 1, 2013
Words:1120
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