The world of executive education is awash with Advanced Management Programs (AMPs), many of which are mini-MBAs covering strategy, finance, marketing and HR issues that general managers need to understand to manage at a strategic level across functions. The better ones then sprinkle this core learning with some leadership development to add flavour.
But what is ‘advanced management’ and how does it differ from ‘ordinary management’? Margaret de Lattre, the Program Director for the Henley AMP is very clear that their program is different in several important ways. She is also clear how, for Henley, ordinary and advanced management diverge.
She sees ordinary management as dealing with stability and alignment, while advanced management has to cope with the wider world issues that bring uncertainty and volatility. “Advanced management” de Lattre says “is about the ability to manage in a VUCA world.”
In re-designing the Henley AMP she has also focused on making it extremely hands-on and relevant – here AMP stands for Advanced Management Practice. De Lattre’s executive education background is in designing custom programs, and she has brought that perspective to this open enrolment program. The program encourages participants to discuss and progress their organization’s challenges in this confidential environment, as well as emphasizing personal learning. By most standards the class is very small, with no program having more than 15 participants. This, de Lattre explains, is because she tailors the two one-week modules very closely to the needs of the participants. This means that each cohort will follow a different set of experiences and be exposed to different content to other groups who take the program. This tailoring is based around the common challenges faced by participants in each cohort, and is provided through a range of electives that participants select to customize the program to their own needs - if there is an interest from participants in opening up and growing new overseas markets, then de Lattre will bring in experts in that area; maybe it is to do with acquiring another business; or bringing new technology to market. If there is a need for a particular set of knowledge then Henley will strive to find the requisite expertise to share and explore the issues and on-the-ground knowledge.
Rich conversations are the basis of good adult learning, and the AMP is designed to generate vibrant discussion. The opportunity for senior managers to come together with a group of like-minded, but nonetheless diverse peers, in the safe confines of an academic institution to discuss and exchange ideas and experiences in a structured way, is always going to be a beneficial learning process. But while the discussion may open up new insights and make sense of previously unclear situations, on its own, it probably lacks the emotional connection to be truly enduring – and ran the risk of being a little detached from the ‘practice’ of the program’s title.
To deliver the emotional connection, the second week of the Henley AMP therefore takes the participants out of the classroom and into a live business case study. De Lattre finds a local organization that is facing challenges that play to the topics covered in the program and the participants visit for a day of interviews and discussion, that follows a day of preparation on the organization’s challenges.
A recent such case, was a locally based national charity, Dogs for Good, that had just changed its name and brand as a result of changing its remit over several years, from just training assistance dogs to recognising that there are many other models that can be used to bring dogs and people together. The challenge for the charity was not just around re-branding issues, but also a change management one. To do the most ‘good’, dogs now needed different levels of training – some needing to do less than their previous training regime required - and this in turn challenged professional practice.
The charity needed to build greater flexibility into both dog and client training, and to develop a more client-focused approach to service development. This required looking at long-standing training processes in some detail and working out new ways to achieve better outcomes for clients. Overall, this means taking the charity through a considerable change project. The participants were faced with a real organizational issue, but as with so much management practice, it was not the strategy or the marketing that was at the root of the problem but the people issue of managing and delivering change – and the tensions and frictions and drop in performance that can go with that.
Immersing themselves in this real-life conundrum mirrors their experiences of working at senior management and board level – with a strong group of peers who all have valuable ideas and are often used to being in control. Working in this complex team environment, where they had to deliver their insights and perceptions to people they did not know, who have strong attachments to current methods and were rewarded intrinsically by their work more than through pay or advancement, created its own significant emotional journey and experience for the participants at both the level of content and personal management style. One that they needed to understand and explore with the program coaches – but also one that will, because of the emotional management practice connection, stay with them and give them real content to draw from for many years to come.
This time element is recognised as being an important part of adult learning. Participants in the AMP get full access to Henley’s range of online resources and coaching, as well as support from the Program Director for the full 12-month period of the program, in recognition that to fully embed the learning, they need to engage with it across various media over an extended period.
Click here to learn more about Henley’s Advanced Management Practice (AMP) which is booking now for October 2017