Executive Transformation Programs The difference between functional specialists and general managers is that the former are just that--specialists--and the latter are expected to manage across a number of organizational functions and make strategic decisions that overcome the inherent conflicting goals of such functions. Every year, 14,000 senior managers attend one or more of at least a hundred executive development programs around the world to facilitate their transformation from functional specialists to general managers. Such programs--typically four to eight weeks long--offer executives a prestigious credential, greater confidence, a broadened perspective, and a knowledge of strategic planning and general management.
A widely held assumption of executive development programs is that knowledge alone is sufficient for executives to be able to formulate and implement management strategies effectively. This article challenges that assumption and presents new ways to "transform" executives, not just broaden their perspectives.
Traditionally, executive-development programs have been education-oriented, either university-based or internal management programs within organizations. Many of the programs developed in the last 50 years are good, yet users and adult- education researchers seem to agree that the programs might be even better if they were both educational and developmental. (In this context, "developmental" means a program that brings about observable change in thought, word, and deed, not just in incremental knowledge.)
Program directors typically have felt safe offering educational experiences, but have avoided working on developmental experiences, as if they were somehow outside their domain and better left to on-the-job experience. But for management specialists to become equally effective generalists, executive programs need to combine education and development. Perhaps program directors have neglected executive development not because they don't recognize or accept its relevance, but because they simply have not known how to achieve it. This article shows how.
Twenty-five years of research have identified the need to make executive programs more explicitly developmental, but fall short on identifying how to design and conduct them. The research adequately covers program goals, operations, staffing, content, logistics, participant perceptions, and participant demographic profiles. Yet it has only hinted at the developmental issue, with recommendations that executive programs should: ] be learner-centered; ] be participative in learning design; ] be applications oriented; ] focus on participants' learning needs and problems; ] require that participants be prepared beforehand; ] have mainstream academic recognition for tenure and review.
Those recommendations make up some of the essential principles and practices of a discipline that executive …