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P. Hind, V. Holton

Ashridge Executive Education (UNITED KINGDOM)
The research described briefly in this abstract is underpinned by the premise that management skills are the key to organisations thriving in turbulent times. The organisations that most of us live and work in are many and varied. They may have a commercial, educational, social, sporting, or some other focus, but they are the life blood of our society. It is within some sort of organisations that most of us spend our lives, whether working or relaxing, and to meet the needs of those within them, all organisations need to be managed in ways that are effective, efficient and sustainable. Through effective management and leadership organisations can energise and motivate employees not only to be engaged and productive but also to align themselves with organisational values. It therefore follows that the importance of ensuring effective management through development cannot be overstated.

The research was undertaken in two phases during 2015 and 2016. The first phase used a structured interview methodology, with an expert sample of 28 learning professionals. The results offered insights into four key principles which contribute to the effectiveness of management and executive education. The second phase constituted a validation of the model suggested by the results of phase one, with a sample of management development programme participants. Both phases will be discussed during the presentation.

The research in phase one conducted semi structured interviews with experienced management development faculty and found that effective management development pays equal attention to four key issues or principles which are relevant to both design and delivery.

These are:
1. The Principle of Communities concerns the communities of both learners and providers. This is not simply the community of participants on each programme but more broadly includes, for example, the community of the host organisations, and the faculty delivering the programme.
2. The Principle of Contracts concerns both commercial and psychological, explicit and implicit agreements involved in the provision of the development. There are obvious contracts such as that between the provider and the buyer of the service, but also more subtle ones such as those experienced within the faculty team.
3. The Principle of Content concerns everything that has impact during the learning experience including the material delivered, learners’ emotional response to the learning and the time allowed for reflection on the learning.
4. The Principle of Context concerns all the environments within which the learning takes place. This includes the classroom, and the context of the participants’ personal and organisational life.

For the interviewees, there appears to be clear interconnectivity between these four principles, a little like a game of dominoes in that successful play relates each domino to others in the set. The most obvious implication of this phase of the study is the fact that learning has to be everyone's business. In theory, most of the different groups involved in executive education know this though it is a point that is rarely specifically spelt out. In both the classroom and during contracting discussions with clients, more could be done to clarify this ‘ownership’ for learning and about finding ways to apply the learning.