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Many global companies have been focused upon strategic executive development within a competitive environment. Often this has resulted in complex theoretical models which have had little or no practical application or impact. Leading-edge companies worldwide have established best practice in this area. This book shows how action learning can result in the effective and successful implementation of strategic executive development.



Business Driven Action Learning


1. DaimlerChrysler: Global Leadership Development Using Action-Oriented and Distance Learning Approaches

LEARNING has become, more than ever before, a key differentiator in the selection of tomorrow’s leaders. Management, today, has to survive in more complex, cross border business environments by finding and applying new business solutions rapidly. To learn better and faster than the competition is the main objective of corporate management programmes which help companies deliver to the market in a short time and provide innovative business solutions for a globalizing enterprise. ‘Work smarter not harder’ is the main challenge for future managers who aim to be ‘proactive instead of reactive’.
Wolfgang Braun

2. Dow:Sustaining Change and Accelerating Growth through Business-Focused Learning

OVER one hundred years ago, Herbert H. Dow founded The Dow Chemical Company in Midland, Michigan, USA. With its global headquarters in Midland, Dow has 115 manufacturing sites in 37 countries. Dow has grown steadily over the years, from a small midwestern company to the global company we are today. Dow is the fifth largest chemical company in the world with annual sales of more than $20 bn. Dow supplies chemistry-based solutions to customers in more than 160 countries around the world in a variety of industry sectors including automotive, appliances, aeronautics, electronics, home furnishings, construction, health care, food services and recreation. Our workforce, numbering more than 40000, mirrors this level of breadth and diversity.
Pierre Guitton, Robert Kasprzyk, Jeannine Sorge

3. DuPont: Business Driven Action Learning to Shift Company Direction

DUPONT is the largest US chemical company and a leader in science and technology in a range of disciplines including high-performance materials, specialty chemicals, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. The company has 83 000 employees and operates 200 manufacturing and processing facilities in 40 countries worldwide. Sales are approximately $25 bn. With established major market positions in North America and Europe, the company is expanding its presence in Asia Pacific and South America. The company aims to grow in businesses with differentiated market positions such as Corian®, Lycra®, and Tyvek®, while maintaining its foundation businesses such as nylon and specialty chemicals. At the same time, DuPont is becoming a major player in life sciences and is rapidly building competencies in biotechnology-derived products in agriculture, materials and pharmaceuticals
Victoria M. LeGros, Paula S. Topolosky

4. General Electric’s Executive Action Learning Programmes

TRAINING and development magazines for the past several years have been featuring articles on an executive education process known as Action Learning. Management ‘gurus’ from academia and consulting have been boasting about their success in achieving new levels of leadership development with their ‘new action learning programmes’. In fact, the concept is over fifty years old, and many companies have been using it successfully for years. The methods used to conduct action learning programmes are not particularly complex, however the most impactful programmes – those that not only develop the participants’ leadership and business skills, but also deliver tangible results to the company – require a significant commitment of senior management sponsorship and involvement, as well as a thorough yet flexible planning and implementation process.
Stephen Mercer

5. Heineken, Shell et al: Twenty Years of Consortium Action Learning – The BOSNO Programme

STARTED more than 20 years ago, the BOSNO programme is still appropriate today. Whilst the principles upon which it is based have never gone out of fashion, the current trend towards ‘hands-on’ experiential learning has stimulated new interest in the BOSNO approach. In 1975, five large Dutch companies – all perceived as leaders in Management Development – realized that by learning together they could extend the horizons of their managers. However, they were unwilling to sacrifice a close integration of their training with their own company practices. Thus, BOSNO was born – a Management Development training programme, executed in a consortium framework, and based upon action learning.
Gordon L. Lackie

6. Hoffman La Roche and Boehringer Mannheim – Mission Impossible?: Management Development During a Takeover

THE EXECUTIVE Management Programme (EMP) reviewed here was a development programme for managers in the Boehringer Mannheim (BM) organization. The overall idea for this programme was to support the goal of the CEO Gerry Moeller to build Boehringer Mannheim as one company. After years of turmoil in the company the 1995 appointed CEO gave the organization his six principles. The HR department was expected to translate these six principles into all its development activities and so into the EMP.
Wolfgang Kissel

7. IBM: Using Business-Driven Action Learning in a Turnaround

THE year 1993 was very noteworthy for IBM. It was the first time in the approximate 75-year history of IBM that we brought in an outside Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Lou Gerstner was appointed the head of IBM, as CEO, and he came to us from RJR Nabisco. In addition, he brought in a few members of his senior team, and this was another very significant change in IBM. Up to that time, all promotions were from within and you can imagine the shock waves that reverberated through the system. It was about the time when Lou Gerstner came in that I joined executive development and was asked to head up the Global Executive Development Programme. The first year that we started to map out the programmes, the new head of Human Resources, Gerry Czarnecki, put a stop to all current programmes that had been going on for a year. We were allowed to re-examine everything that was happening in order to come up with an entirely new design. That in effect was quite a monumental thing for IBM, to bring everything to a halt and reconsider all our programmes.
Ron Hosta

8. Johnson & Johnson: Executive Development and Strategic Business Solutions through Action Learning

JOHNSON & JOHNSON is the world’s largest and most comprehensive manufacturer of health care products serving the consumer, pharmaceutical, diagnostics and professional markets. It employs approximately 95000 employees, and has more that 180 operating companies in 51 countries around the world, selling products in more than 175 countries. Sales for 1998 were $23.7 bn with consolidated net earnings at $3.7 bn, an increase of 11.1 per cent over 1997. Effective leadership is required to continue the success and growth of the Corporation in a global competitive environment. A new style of leader is required, who can grow the various businesses by being able to work across boundaries with multiple working relationships, in teams, and can leverage multiple resources. Executives at Johnson & Johnson endorse education as a key lever to address the leadership needs of the company, however the traditional approaches to executive education were being evaluated regarding their impact on the business. Therefore, a new approach for executive education that focuses on real business problems is being incorporated into its programmes. This ‘action learning’ approach is a direct response to feedback by executives who want business-driven programmes which have immediate applicability and solve or address real problems.
Ronald Bossert

9. Motorola: Combining Business Projects with Learning Projects

IN many aspects Motorola is unique among the Fortune 500 companies. From a modest beginning in the heartland of the United States the corporation has grown to produce approximately $30bn in annual revenue with 130000 employees located in 45 countries around the world. It has accomplished this growth by focusing the corporation’s energies on one primary business, the enhancement and development of the electronics communications industry. Because Motorola is engaged in the leading edge of communications technology, it has built close working relationships with governments, universities and regulatory institutions around the world. These relationships help Motorola both influence and work within the communities and environments that regulate the communications industry. Motorola prides itself in working in countries in a partnering relationship of free trade, where Motorola assists the country in developing their communications capabilities and in turn benefits from the evolution of the markets for communications products. There are many instances in Motorola’s history where the corporation has invested in a country for ten years or more without seeing significant profitable return. Motorola believes this level of commitment is required to develop the communication industry, and in turn, the market opportunities for the corporation. Several examples of this philosophy of long term commitment include the Republic of China, India and South Africa. Motorola senior leaders often commit to the leaders of emerging market countries that ‘we are here to invest in your society for the long term and you can count on us as a partner in improving your communications infrastructure and the standard of living of your people’. More importantly they have examples in the history of the company to justify these commitments. The corporation considers these longstanding relationships, build on high integrity and ethical standards, and respect for the individual, as part of the intellectual property of the company.
Kenneth H. Hansen

10. Action Learning at Philips Electronics: from Training to Transformation

FOR MORE than 20 years action learning has been at the heart of Philips’ management education activities, and this chapter will deal with three very different approaches. Firstly the ‘European Octagon’, which has also been adopted by several other companies, is based on an assignment from the Board for high potential middle managers. It has been updated recently to become a truly global programme. Secondly, at the business unit level, powerful project approaches for strategy development with a strong action learning focus for management teams have been used since the mid-1970s.
Nigel J. Freedman

11. Scancem: ‘What Did We Earn and Learn’? Emerging Markets and Business Driven Action Learning

SCANCEM is one of the leading cement and building materials companies in the world with over 10000 employees, active in 35 countries, and with its headquarters in Malmo, Sweden. Scancem has major operations in many parts of the world but in 1997 the board was considering and interested in expanding its activities in a new emerging market region. Before doing so in a significant way, it was decided to utilize its annual action learning programme for high potentials and then its Senior Management Seminars to access the past experiences that Scancem had in emerging markets. At the same time they were to address the issue as to whether or not the company had developed the right competencies to work well in new emerging markets, especially in South East Asia.
Miko Weidemanis, Yury Boshyk

12. Siemens Management Learning: A Highly Integrated Model to Align Learning Processes with Business Needs

THE FOLLOWING trends have been recognised in the field of management training for some 15 years, irrespective of the type of business: The time companies spend on learning in formal processes is being reduced per training unit (seminar, workshop), even though the perceived need for learning is rising. Traditional learning processes are being increasingly separated from work processes. This is evident if one considers the choice of locations where training is held (company in-house training centres, business schools, seminar locations). The learner consequently has the feeling that the greater the distance from the actual workplace, the less the relevance of what is being learned. The ‘seminar’ method of training (classroom instructions as a combination of lectures and exercises over a couple of days) is becoming more popular, which may explain why efforts are being made to standardise and commercialise the subjects and processes to be learned. At the same time, there is growing criticism of the efficiency and the effectiveness of this learning method for practical work.1
Matthias Bellmann

13. Volkswagen: Action Learning and the Development of High Potentials

WHEN I met Richard Davis, he was an investment banker and he had been working with Morgan Stanley for the best part of the last two years. He was a little over 24 years old and he looked exactly that age. It was in one of the overcrowded Northwest lounges of the Davis terminal in Detroit. We were both waiting for a Dallas connection and we started chatting. I was in the middle of a benchmarking study focused on the development of high potential managers for the Volkswagen Group and he was flying to some remote place in Texas where he would meet with the CEO and with the CFO of a health food processing company. ‘To analyze their assets’ he told me, ‘in order to see whether we would consider buying them.’
Guy Mollet

Facilitating and Enhancing Business Driven Action Learning


14. Strategic Management by Project Group: Lessons Learned

A NUMBER of years ago I asked a group of senior managers to outline the problems that they experienced with the strategy process in their organizations. There was a wide range of responses, but essentially they clustered into four main groupings. I call this the strategy development problem. It still seems extraordinary in this age of sophisticated management development, that senior managers are saying this. But it is still the reality, particularly where, as a result of delayering, we have a younger generation of senior managers suddenly finding themselves rapidly promoted up into board management strategic positions. These people have survived the rat-race by being doers and suddenly find themselves having to think strategically, having to think in the abstract, having to think long term. They are struggling with the very idea of strategy itself, and finding that they alone as a top team cannot comprehend all the complexity involved.
Colin Hastings

15. GE Executive Programmes: Checklist and Tools for Action Learning Teams

Introduce project issue to the teams Overview of briefing material Meet team coach Individual preparation of briefing material Briefing by business contact Team project planning Team selection of ‘Project Week’ Team sets up data gathering and interviews Project WeekAnalysis/report writing Presentation to business sponsor Preparation Implementation Team process issues Closure: recommendations and presentation Reflection/feedback
Stephen Mercer

16. Facilitating Leadership Through High Performance Teamwork Leadership

IN this article I will describe the process by which one global corporation builds its leadership capability for the 21st century, through a particular form of the action learning process – business driven action learning. The goal of the programme is to build multicultural leadership and teamworking capability, while examining a critical business issue. The business findings are presented to the top management of the organization by the multicultural teams established at the beginning of the programme. When the teams succeed in working well, the presentations are excellent. Naturally not all teams succeed in working well together. When this is the case, the participants’ individual leadership, team and multicultural learning can be even more transformational. But not always.
Mary Rose Greville

17. Executive Team Facilitation: Some Observations

WHY am I here? This is one of the most critical questions asked by team members and must be addressed by an executive wishing to facilitate an executive leadership team. An executive must resolve the fears that are associated with unresolved issues often experienced by team members not familiar with team dynamics or working in a team environment. The resolution of these issues during this initial stage of team development often provides team members with a sense of purpose, a sense of assessing how they fit into the team and the expectations of the executive, and it allows them to test their sense of membership with other colleagues on the team.
Thomas E. Ollerman

18. Organizing the External Business Perspective: The Role of the Country Coordinator in Action Learning Programmes

THE continuum of the action learning experience is vast and diverse. Within this, the role of the country coordinator in an action learning programme is many-tiered and complex. The country coordinator is in essence the facilitator who must bring together all the diverse pieces of the project in order to actualize a specific programme in a selected country for the company’s participants. To this end, the coordinator must be a person able to work on many different levels in different capacities all at the same time. The views in this chapter are based on my experiences over the years as a country coordinator for action learning programmes in Europe and in Canada with some major corporate leaders in the field of action learning. While significant differences will arise in the approach to action learning within every company due to differences in corporate cultures and the needs and objectives of the company, I will try to extract some basic tenets which I believe may be useful in application to most corporate action learning scenarios.
Patricia E. Levy

19. ‘Learning the Hard Way’: Creating an Executive Development Opportunity for Learning and Reflection

‘So how was the business school programme, John? … Oh, you know, I’m really grateful to the firm for letting me go. It was a great choice, pretty tough on the family but worth it nonetheless. I had a great time. It was a terrific experience and just the right programme for me. I learnt so much … Great, what were the highlights in particular? Did you find the sessions on financial strategy as useful as we anticipated? … Well yes they were useful as an update, but to be honest I guess we are as up to speed in what we are doing here. But you know I learnt far more from the other people on the programme than any of the faculty or the case studies they used, and what’s more I guess I’ll stay good friends with one or two of the other delegates for life. We really clicked on the same wavelength. Just having time to think away from the office was a real bonus too; it put so much of what we do into context’.
Nigel Barrett


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