In the February 2006 issue of Chief Learning Officer, the
American Management Association's Executive Vice President of U.S.
Management Education noted, "Today's chief learning officers have a
goal to provide relevant, effective, efficient, and measurable
The primary challenge from the organization's perspective is
focused on measurement. Despite significant investments in
leadership development initiatives each year, less than 10 percent
of organizations measure the impact of those investments (ASTD's
2005 State of the Industry Report, p. 16.)
Without an assessment tool, how is the responsible executive able
to determine whether the leadership development they provide is
relevant and efficient? How would you answer their queries for
information on your leadership development programs?
Leadership Development is Different
The issues and needs of leadership development training are unique
and require special consideration. Leadership theory has evolved,
creating opportunities for how we measure leadership training
We recognize the complexity of our work environment and no longer
believe a command-and-control style of leadership is viable. We
have moved from the born-leader concept to a systems foundation. By
using a systems approach, you gain insights into the many factors
that contribute to success.
Impact Across Time
Training effectiveness is easiest to measure when there is a tight
timeline between the cause of a change and the effect of that
change. In leadership development, especially at the senior
management levels, there are delays between the leader's actions
and the impact of those actions. Having outcomes spread over time
influences the ability to recognize the impact.
Almost all leadership definitions include some form of the concept
that leaders are responsible for influencing the behaviors of
others. Consistent with that definition, the measurements of
success need to include assessments on how the behaviors of others
have changed. This is a missing step in contemporaneous approaches,
where the metrics focus on a simple, linear cause and effect cycle.
From a systems perspective, the impact of effective training is
leveraged. When leaders change their behaviors, they initiate a
series of changes throughout the organization. These changes
ultimately lead to the impact that executives hope to achieve when
they start a leadership development initiative.
The paradox of measuring the effectiveness of leadership training
is that while it is the hardest area to measure, it also is the
most important area. During economic downturns or uncertain
quarterly returns, it is difficult for an executive to demonstrate
a long-term commitment to leadership development when the decision
is based on intuition.
The ROI financial evaluation tools we often apply to training were
originally used as a means to guide go/no-go decisions. If
leadership development is considered a long-term strategic
investment, the purpose of effectiveness measures changes to a
focus on ensuring that the outcomes are effective and that the
resources are employed efficiently. This transforms the measurement
focus. A different type of analysis is needed to answer the
questions that savvy executives are asking.
A New Approach
A systems approach provides an understanding of the dynamic
environment that contributes to success. A systems framework shifts
our focus to provide the understanding necessary to make informed
decisions. From a systems perspective, an effective measurement
- makes visible the cause and effect relationships
- provides evidence of impact through real on-the-job situations
- identifies program segments that did not add value and that
were not linked to on-the-job successes
- targets predictable, research-based factors that contribute to
success and nonsuccess
- guides the leadership design professionals on possible program
changes that will increase value.
An effective systems-based measurement approach enables strong
leadership action. Leaders can move authoritatively and quickly.
They can focus priorities and resources in ways that align with our
new understanding. They have the knowledge and confidence to
revitalize some initiatives and abandon others. They demonstrate
resolve in taking a longer-term perspective because they understand
the natural time cycle of the system in which they are working.
Finally, leaders have a sense of relative value because they can
understand the trade-offs inherent in any course of action.
Taking a systems perspective mandates that the leadership
development professional expand their role beyond design and
delivery. In the new environment, these professionals must
understand the various factors that influence successful on-the-job
application of the concepts taught during the leadership
development program. More to the point, the leadership-development
professional would be accountable for on-the-job application of the
concepts taught during the leadership development program.