It is a terrific idea for executive-development professionals to
play a role in the strategic-planning process, the formation of
high-level goals and execution plans. Why? Strategy formulation is
the process of choosing the best path for an organization, based on
customer needs, competitive realities, and internal capabilities.
Those organizations that can integrate all three perspectives
effectively into strategic planning will have more robust
strategies and will perform better. The planning process also
benefits an executive's personal development; the process stretches
thinking, builds new skills, and provides an opportunity for top
management to see up and coming talent in action.
While some organizations actively link executive development to
strategic planning, it is more the exception than the rule. Why?
There are three reasons. First, executive managers are not
motivated to integrate executive development and strategic
planning. They simply haven't seen or experienced good examples of
how the integration can be done. Second, there often is limited
ability to integrate the two processes. The integration involves
art and science. The organization needs individuals who
understand the development processes and who have expertise in
management evaluation and development, balanced with long-term
strategic planning. Third, there often are not great opportunities
to do so. The planning process can happen relatively quickly,
usually with a small group of insiders, not affording ample
opportunity to flesh out the management development discussions.
Of course, a big problem with this disconnect is the creation of
strategies that simply don't work because they are not grounded in
reality. In other situations, the planning process gets too far
ahead of the management-development process, and the talent
pipeline is not delivering the quantity or quality that the
How To Get Executive Development Professionals
Executive-development professionals can adopt the following five
guidelines to play a significant role in the strategic-planning
process, which will result in better strategic plans and provide
great developmental opportunities.
1. Acquaint yourself with the process.
Executive-development professionals often are left out of the
planning loop. They have a difficult time knowing the answer to
such key questions as: How is strategy at your organization
created? Has the organization retained a strategy consulting firm
to help craft a new set of organizational plans? Which executives
are charged with driving new strategies?
Development professionals need to have the answer to these
questions, because once a strategy is agreed to, the executive team
is going to start thinking about execution, and that is where the
development professional comes in.
2. Integrate business plans and executive development
Executive development professionals need to ensure that business
plans and people plans are in synch. To do so, they need to make
the case for their involvement in the strategic-planning process in
part based on the unique perspective that only they can provide.
Other management insiders may see aspects of the organization that
the development expert has not experienced, but the development
professional is best suited to determine how much development
activity is needed.
3. Inject objectivity and facts.
There needs to be a ruthless pursuit of having the right leaders in
the right roles at the right time, which means casting aside
politics, something that is sometimes easier for development
professionals who typically are removed from the business units and
its politics. They need to bring the facts to the table in the same
way that other business areas do. As a development professional,
they need to bring information on what level of senior talent the
organization has today, and who is in the pipeline in the context
of strategic plans and organizational needs. Consider using a
succession database to track your management assets. Have the facts
on what it takes (time, money, and so forth) to develop executives
vs. hire outsiders.
4. Ensure development activities support corporate
For executives, the last thing any organization wants to do is take
them offline for a training session. Development needs to occur on
the job, and help each executive achieve their specific business
challenges. Action Learning is perfect for this. Action learning
takes current business imperatives and challenges and uses them as
a basis for the developmental experience. Coaching and reflection
are embedded into the project life cycle to ensure that individual
development occurs alongside "real work."
5. Involve the board of directors and top
Development professionals should get their board of directors and
top executives involved in executive development. Have them mentor
and coach other high-potential managers and use them as presenters
in development sessions. This is beneficial for the up and coming
managers as they get great exposure to the senior team in the
organization. You likely will notice that eventually development
discussions that involve the most senior executives will inevitably
include strategic issues; this is great. Similarly, you want
strategic-planning discussions to include a bit about development.
Ideally, you will achieve a blurring between the strategic-planning
process and the executive-development process by having the top
executives involved in key executive-development activities.
Executive development has a very different role than in the past,
and this role will continue to evolve. By actively supporting the
strategic-planning process, development professionals can manage
executive development as a much more strategic fashion than just
building competencies in the upper ranks, helping build better
plans and executives at the same time.