Kenneth Eng Comments on the Future of Executive Development

     In the last article we discussed the key factors impacting executive development programs today.  This article will outline how the impact has changed the operating context for the professionals involved and what it will look like in the future (Executive Development 2.0).

      I mentioned this in a past article but it bears repeating.  When commenting on the future of executive development, it’s not,

“I’m Kenneth Eng from Vancouver, BC.  I’m an Executive Development Prognosticator.”

            Rather, it’s more, 

“I’m Kenneth Eng from Vancouver, BC.  I’m an Executive Development Observer.”

     Trends have a tendency to reveal themselves gradually and based on current data so if we keep our eyes and ears open, we can see what’s coming before it arrives.

     This information comes from my fifteen years consulting for companies such as Second Wave Sports, the David Suzuki Foundation, Re/Max, and North Shore Disability just to name a few.  It is also culled from numerous sources including the Institute of Executive Development which helps guide professionals the world over.

1)  The purpose of the executive development program is to further business strategy rather than just building skills.

     In the past, executive development activities made use of skill-building activities as a way to train future executives.  These activities often had little to do with actual organizational goals and strategies.  The new context for executive development puts stress on functional training that improves an executive’s abilities while at the same time giving impetus to the vision of the company.

2)  Current business imperatives should influence the content of the program.

     This one is fairly straightforward and goes hand-in-hand with #1.  The program should focus on problems faced by the business rather than issues fabricated just for the learning experience.  This goes back to the idea of experiential learning and highlights the new practical approach to executive development.

3)  Restrict activities to the current operational cycle (typically 12 months).

     I’ve mentioned this before but it’s the framework through which all modern-day executive development programs now operate.  Budget cuts and time constraints at the executive level dictate that programs do more with less.  Keep it short and make it effective.

4)  More On-The-Job and Action Learning

      Common activities for executive development programs once included workshops and training programs.  Not to say that these options have been declared dead – they are still viable and valuable activities – but more emphasis is being put on the importance of learning in context; that is, while actually doing the work rather than listening to a lecture.  Executive development programs are seeing the value of training future executives through actual work experiences.  These work experiences also have the added benefit of being directly related to an issue faced by the business at that time (see #2 above).

5)  The Audience is Now Larger

     In the past, those observing the executive development program were restricted to the current executives in charge.  The demand for transparency in the modern age has changed all of that.  The new model for executive development has broadened the audience to include other stakeholders such as partners, customers, and even the public at large.

6)  Time vs. Money

     While this may sound like an executive development program can write its own checks, we all know that budget issues have become the new norm.  With those budget issues have come more and more demands on current executive’s time.  The new paradigm for executive development programs will be measured in terms of an executive’s time rather than money spent.  Time has become its own currency.

     So there you have it:  the new face of executive development.  Kenneth Eng of Vancouver, BC has just predicted the future!  No, not really.  It’s all right there to see.  I’ve just put it all in one place.  Remember, I’m not a prophet; I’m an observer.

     And keep in mind that much of the old paradigm is still in operation.  Companies, though, are seeing the value of evolving to this new set of strictures because of the benefits it offers.  Bottom line:  it’s important to examine the needs of the business first (this goes back to the Assessment phase I talked about at the beginning of this series).  Determine what would work best for your company.  If it’s Executive Development 2.0, great!  But if it’s pieces parts from previous iterations of the concept then that’s okay too.  It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.  Find what works for you and go with it.


Executive Management

Kenneth Eng Recounts the Most Asked Question

The last decade has been very trying for the business world. Long-standing practices have fallen by the wayside as changes in the economy effect even the largest organization. No one – it seems – is immune.

So it’s no surprise that a first meeting goes like this:

“Hi, I’m Kenneth Eng of Vancouver, BC. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Manager X. Nice to meet you. What are the key factors impacting my executive development program?”

Granted, it’s not quite that abrupt but some form of the question comes up in the first five minutes at least 90% of the time during a first consultation.

Fifteen years ago when I began consulting as an executive development professional, the landscape was different. Every few years or so, the influences on executive development programs would evolve and change. So when I consulted for Second Wave Sports in the early 2000s, the influences on their program were different than those faced by the David Suzuki Foundation in 2006. Factors had changed in 2010 when I consulted for North Shore Disability and yet again when I consulted for Re/Max in 2012.

Believe it or not, they’ve changed even more in the past two years. Below are the key factors impacting the field of executive development today. Let’s take a look at them in a bit more detail.

1) Budget

Is there any doubt that budget effects executive development programs? The current economic environment has put great pressure on departments and programs across the board. Executive development managers – like everyone else – are asked to do more with less. And while this is a hardship, it has forced many programs to get creative in their development activities leading to some interesting innovations.

2) Demands on Current Executives

Because of budget cuts, mid-level management has been reduced while the number of stakeholders has been increased. This has increased the set of responsibilities faced by current executives and has led to a “what have you done for me lately” trend. Executives are more likely to eliminate development activities if there is no immediate value (stress on the word ‘immediate’).

3) Time

Everything goes back to budget…and the time frame of development projects is no exception. Development programs that go on and on can devour already scarce resources. As a result, executive development professionals are now required to keep activities within the current operating cycle.

Time also has an effect on executive development programs because of the pace of adaptation and innovation. The speed with which organizations need to operate continues to increase. This puts pressure on executive development to keep up with the ever-changing pace of the business as whole.

4) Human Resources

The above three factors have moved most businesses to become more results oriented. This, in turn, has required all departments to raise their game. Human Resources and its components have been asked to prove their worth through the hiring process. This, of course, has an effect on what the executive development program has to work with and will determine its course considerably.

Even as I write this, influences on executive development programs are changing; a new environment is being created. This leads us to the second most common question I get on the first consultation:

“Hi. I’m Kenneth Eng from Vancouver, BC. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Manager X. Nice to meet you. What are the key factors impacting my executive development program? And how is my program likely to change in the future?”

That second question is the topic for my next article. We’ll delve into the ways in which the above factors are creating a new operating system for executive development professionals (some call it Executive Development 2.0).