Addressing the professional development gap for future Business School leaders
For a few years, with my colleagues in the industry, we have been discussing the gap in professional development for future leaders in business education. We came to the following conclusion: educational programmes for Deans, professors and even for researchers existed, yet there was no programme for the Associate Deans, and Programme Directors. A programme where they could learn to tackle their challenges. Conferences, for example, are a good place to learn about the best practices and to network, but these events are more informative than formative.
Thus the EFMD GN Executive Academy was born with a clear purpose in mind: to create an opportunity for Associate Deans and Programme Directors to develop their skills and career path with a direct impact on their personal and professional lives. A grand aim and a grand challenge, but after 4 editions and 76 participants coached in Miami, Singapore and twice in Prague, our efforts did bear fruit.
In order to offer the one-of-a-kind professional development journey, we draw lessons from our very own experience as associate deans and programme directors. Cross-checking with our colleagues is equally as important because it enables us to bounce ideas off our peers as well as senior colleagues. We enquired deans of business schools about the demand for such programme and their positive responses confirmed we were on the right track.
The participant is in the centre of the design of the Executive Academy (EA). Hence the programme constantly evolves in order to be the transformation of one’s professional and personal life in the higher education industry.
Applying the framework of “Jobs to be done,” we moved our focus from “participants needs” to addressing “participants’ struggles”. The EA became the means through which associate deans and programme directors can solve the real problems they face in their careers. The programme’s design puts an emphasis on the aspect of “tomorrow” and hence not only braces participants to become better at what they do today but prepares them for what they should be doing in the future.
Participants’ needs naturally could not go unnoticed. Among the recurrent bottlenecks, we identified quality assurance, internationalisation, digitalisation, and the importance of corporate connections. The Academy responds to individual’s calls and accordingly integrates topics such as work-life balance, finding the time to learn about oneself or reflection about career progression. Understanding how to better influence others, learning how to manage a multi-stakeholder network of students, professors, accreditations, rankings, recruiters, and many more.
With the needs and struggles identified, we started to create an educational experience that had the ambition to become the bridge between how things are today and how the participants want things to be.
The EFMD GN Executive Academy solution
The needs/struggles are not located in a specific region of the world, therefore the Executive Academy is relevant globally. We decided to offer the programme in three different regions to the participants’ convenience: Prague (Europe), Miami (Americas) and Singapore (Asia).
The programme and participants’ expectations are clearly communicated and discussed during the admissions process. The target market is clear: Associate Deans, senior programme directors and other division directors with managerial responsibility. To engage this specific target, we designed a programme that is closer to what we offer in senior executive education programmes than an industry-specific education. Each candidate sits down for a one-to-one conversation with the Executive Academy director in order to set reciprocal expectations.
The programme had to go from a reactive to a proactive mode. We decided that participants will start the programme remotely one month prior to the face-to-face week with a set of pre-programme materials (360° CCL evaluation, readings, articles, and worksheets). The purpose was to extend the educational experience beyond the face-to-face segment. This is a common practice in business schools’ programmes, but not in professional development offerings for industry professionals. We needed to embrace a system in which the participant prepares a foundation for themselves to maximise how much they take away.
Intensity is essential to the face-to-face week
Due to the limited face-to-face time (4,5 days), we had to make it intensive. We wanted people to forge long-lasting relationships with their peers. The programme thus offers in-class and out-of-class activities that accelerate the learning and networking part of the programme. The residential component was also considered, as having all participants staying at the same hotel helps to create community and interaction.
The importance of creating impact in both participants and sponsors
As professionals in education, we all know how critical it is to have a real-life project where you can implement what you have learnt in class. The Executive Academy concludes with two tasks that the participants have to take on after the face-to-face week. First, a capstone project during which participants implement a strategic challenge that their institution faces. The second task is a one-to-one coaching session during which the participant sets his or her leadership journey action plan.
The Executive Academy will keep its work-in-progress approach. The programme will have to swiftly adapt to the changing environment. Phenomena such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, blockchain and many more will be part of the curriculum. Last but not least, the EA team created the Executive Academy Alumni group. We are aware that some challenges might not be addressed during the Academy and some might appear along the journey after graduation. The Group serves as our “innovation lab”, where we keep discussions alive and offer new opportunities to the former EA participants. Thanks to those constant interactions we make sure the future participants will embark on an educational journey that will tackle their needs and struggles.