Galo Sanchez, an executive with The Elite Flower company, arrived in Boston for MIT’s Advanced Management Program (AMP) with a specific goal in mind. A Miami-based multinational grower and distributor of fresh-cut flowers with 14,000 employees dispersed among 32 locations, The Elite Flower lacked a standardized process for internal communication. Sanchez hoped that at MIT he would find a solution.
He was not disappointed.
Through the AMP’s courses, off-site visits, and conversations with his fellow AMP participants, Sanchez learned a number of different “strategies and frameworks that I did apply immediately,” he says. “To be honest it has been less than six months and we are already seeing the results in the organization.”
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The MIT Advanced Management Program – a five-week intensive course on campus that attracts participants from around the world – makes a bold promise. “We're trying to provide an intense transformative experience for mid-career executives,” says Court Chilton, co-director with Colleen Berger of the AMP at MIT. These executives, he says, “are often in a place where they've been successful, but the next thing they do is going to require that they show up differently or bring to the floor different parts of themselves than what they might have relied on up to that point.”
They've been successful, but the next thing they do is going to require that they show up differently or bring to the floor different parts of themselves
Fulfilling the promise of a transformative experience begins with keeping the number of participants low – 35 executives maximum is the MIT AMP guideline but it’s often lower. “With thirty-five people we have an intimate environment where people can – from all over the world, all different cultures, all different economic sectors, large and small companies – connect about who they are, how they're showing up as leaders today and how that might need to change in the future,” Chilton explains. Participants “can also talk about organizational issues in a franker way than they could if there was a lot of people that were in the cohort.”
For former AMP participant Sanchez, the program’s immediate efforts to transform participants into a highly effective learning community “caught my attention.” “I believe the magic happens with the way the AMP administrative team selects the team,” he says. He describes his fellow participants as 22 executives with “very strong personalities.”
The program not only “put the right people together,” he says, but also laid the foundation for the group’s interactions to have a maximum impact.
Another advantage of the MIT AMP is the opportunity to become immersed in what Chilton calls the “eco-system and ethos” of MIT. “This is one of the densest places in the world for startup activity and technology,” says Chilton when asked to describe the MIT ecosystem, “and we're bringing a lot of that into the classroom, and we're also going out to see it.” Participants are able to visit other companies and other parts of MIT as part of the program.
The ethos is reflected in the school’s ‘Mind and Hand’ motto (Mens et Manus)
“For the short period of time that you spend in the course, you truly start feeling part of [MIT],” agrees Sanchez. It’s not only being on the campus, he says, but being able to walk around and being welcomed into any building. According to Sanchez, it was just a matter of saying, “’Hey, I am from the AMP, can you show me this?’ And people were willing to do it. They see you as part of the organization.”
The “ethos” of MIT, says Chilton, is reflected in the school’s “Mind and Hand” motto (in Latin, Mens et Manus), which refers to a culture that emphasizes applied knowledge. For that reason, much of the MIT faculty are both researchers and academics but also practitioners. “We have people who can talk about [their subject] academically, but, also how is it applied?” he says.
Another facet of the MIT ethos is an emphasis on learning by doing. Participants “are not in these tiered classrooms where there are several levels, and all the wisdom is down in the pit where the faculty member is,” he says. Instead, the group gathers in flat classrooms and work together on problems. For example, while there may be one or two case studies presented per week, “we're much more likely to present some research and then say, ‘here's a framework that emerges from that research.’ And if we've done our job right, the framework will be dynamic enough so that whether you're a small, fast-growing company or a big established company with a more mature growth pattern, you can still use the framework – you just might make decisions differently or take a different approach.”
To enrich the applicability of the learning in the program, participants are asked to interview their managers and other people in their organization, including customer-facing managers and employees, and bring with them some issue, challenge or problem important to the participant’s company – the type of critical but not urgent issue that is often pushed aside during the pressure of day-to-day operations. It was this request that prompted former AMP participant Sanchez’s quest in Boston to revitalize the company’s internal communication processes.
The executives who are more likely to gain value from the program are those with a growth mindset, a learning mindset
The AMP runs for five weeks, with the first week dedicated to “connection and reinvention”: helping participants come together as a learning community and integrating them into the greater MIT community. Subsequent weeks cover Managing in the Global Economic System, Leading and Organizing for Change, Finance and Company Direction (which focuses on operations and supply chain management), and Innovation and Integration. Participants in the program are also offered access to one-on-one executive coaching.
For Chilton, the executives who are more likely to gain value from the program are those with “a growth mindset, a learning mindset… with an openness to learning and to be able and willing to change something about themselves” – a sentiment echoed by Sanchez. “If you are humble enough to take off your CEO, CFO, Executive Vice President hat and be able to open yourself, the course will take you by the hand through the whole process… and you will be able to learn again.”