Cranfield School of Management: The Longer Road
Most executives are aware that they need to keep their own training up to date, cramming intensive development programmes into their hectic schedules. However, taking a little more time can reap much greater benefits, David Butcher of the Cranfield School of Management tells Jim Banks.
Busy executives are increasingly turning to shorter executive programmes to improve their management and leadership skills and, not surprisingly, extended open-enrolment programmes are a relatively static sector of the executive development market. Nevertheless, such courses remain the bedrock of professional management education.
Dr David Butcher, director of Open Executive Programmes and course director for the Business Leaders' Programme at Cranfield School of Management, says: 'Executive development has changed a lot in the last 15 years. Back then, there were few tailored executive programmes offered by business schools, so most of the rapid growth has been in customised programmes.'
'However, over this period we have also seen open programmes become more refined and used in a much more considered and appropriate way by businesses.'
'Extended open programmes are for executives who want a comprehensive development experience combined with state-of-the-art knowledge development, and who want to learn in discussion with like-minded managers from many different organisations.'
Open programmes also help companies identify who will benefit most from development processes, and thus represent an important input to long-term succession planning.
Cranfield School of Management is among Europe's leading business schools and is known for its high-quality executive development, postgraduate teaching and research, and its strong links to industry and business.
The school is particularly well regarded for its strength in areas such as leadership, general management, strategy, entrepreneurship and supply chain management, though its courses span a wide range of subjects. Its prominence has led the school to develop its open programmes to suit the varied roles and careers of today’s successful executives.
PROGRAMMES FOR THE FUTURE
The skills that executives require are largely built on the knowledge and techniques that have been in existence for the last decade, though the markets in which those skills are used – and the business models they support – are constantly changing.
Cranfield's focus, therefore, has been on refining the delivery of its course content. Shortening the open courses is one key change.
Butcher explains: 'Executives' lack of time is certainly an important driver, and the average length of the programmes has fallen. It is now rare to have business school courses of more than three or four weeks duration.'
'Pressure from the marketplace means courses are now two-thirds the length they were 10 years ago. But also, companies are far clearer about what they want from business schools.'
Technology plays a key role in improving the efficiency of executive development courses, but business schools have also had to focus on improving their understanding of how people learn as adults. More effective development methods means key courses can be shorter and more intensive, enabling executives to incorporate them into their schedules.
'At Cranfield we constantly try to find development and learning processes that enable executives to think and act most effectively for their businesses,' says Butcher.
'This leads us to focus on how to deliver that knowledge quicker and more efficiently. Some of that effort is technological, but it is more to do with refining the core processes of the executive learning process, much of which comes from our research.'
Longer, open programmes are the bedrock of executive development, presenting a vital opportunity for promising individuals to start realising their potential, and for already successful executives to remain so.