Is leadership development worth the investment?

By Lester Coupland



At Cranfield we work hard to ensure that our leadership development programmes consistently deliver value that businesses both need and expect. We receive positive feedback from course participants, many of whom are only too happy to tell us about the difference attending a leadership programme at Cranfield has made within their organisation and to their own career development and personal outlook. Unfortunately, leadership development courses are still perceived by many as not offering much in the way of value for money. You don’t have to look far to find evidence that outcomes from this type of training often fall short of organisations’ and individuals’ expectations.

A company priority

A recent report by St Gallen Executive Education established the fact that 93% of business leaders would list executive leadership development as one of their top two priorities for their organisation when focusing on future success. However, further research by the organisation found that only one in five thought their company was unlocking the full potential of executive learning and leadership development.

Therefore, leadership development is clearly considered an enabler of growth and innovation, although still so many of the programmes available are falling short of what is needed. How can we and our fellow educational providers begin to tackle this shortfall and set about improving the reputation of leadership development courses?

At Cranfield Executive Development, we have been designing and delivering leadership development programmes for many years, and have consistently ranked highly for the impact of our work. At the same time, we have been working hard to address the issue of ‘perceived impact’ in our own research and pursuing innovation in our work with individual clients. We have been striving to understand what works in leadership development, for whom, and in what contexts.

Design for Impact

The culmination of seven years’ research led by our Executive Development Director, Dr Wendy Shepherd, Design for Impact is our own design philosophy, which aims to help businesses evaluate their needs and therefore gather the evidence needed to justify their investment in executive education, as well as prove return on that investment.

Design for Impact is intended to be a rigorous process; it has several key stages, each enabled by a set of methods and tools which are applied while working in close collaboration with the organisation in question.

The design methodology starts with our Learning Capital Audit (LCA), which reviews the organisation’s current approach to learning and how it fits within its wider context and strategy. The output of the LCA is a set of recommendations for change, which in turn form the foundation of something we call a Development Impact Model.

This model, co-created during a design workshop, provides an explanation of how the development intervention will deliver change at the individual, team and wider organisational level.

Once the Development Impact Model is agreed, the final stage of design involves the creation of what we call Development Pathways, and the curation of content.

The programme impact is measured at five various stages of the intervention, input, activity, output, outcome and impact. Design for Impact offers a range of carefully crafted techniques and tools to support organisations in implementing the required changes.

Those responsible for leadership development interventions within organisations often struggle to produce the evidence required when asked by their Executive Board to report on the return on investment. By encouraging some new practices and a different way of thinking, Design for Impact aims to help organisations to justify the time, money and effort they put into executive development and produce provable invaluable results.

Discover our leadership development solutions. Download the Cranfield Executive Development brochure:

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