In small packages comes focused education

In small packages comes focused education

When one thinks of executive education, often times, thought does not go beyond an executive-masters in business administration (MBA). However, the executive MBA is viewed as a luxury by many working professionals, a luxury that few can afford, both in terms of time and money. Management development programmes (MDPs), on the other hand, are usually short in duration (anywhere from two to three days to a week) and go easier on the pocket. And since they enhance an employee’s skill set in a specific direction, employers are more willing to incur costs and bear the absence of the employee during this period.

When S.C. Sharada worked in a multi-national corporation, she underwent an MDP at Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore. “Back in 2002-2003, I attended the programme on indirect tax management. One of my objectives at the company was to create a more efficient tax system. And this programme helped me create a new tax manual for it,” she says. Today, she runs her own corporate consultancy firm.

The short duration of the programmes is a big draw for those with limited time on their hands. “I do not have time to enroll in a long programme, so, I recently opted to do a three-day programme on enhancing skill sets of entrepreneurs at IIM, Ahmedabad,” says V. Govind, director, Lotus Roofing Pvt. Ltd., a manufacturer of roofing sheets. This particular programme covered sub-topics such as converting strategy to a business plan, hypothesising and working with assumptions and making cohesive business presentations to name a few. Govind also feels that the programme allowed him to benchmark his progress against other entrepreneurs, which would have otherwise been near impossible.

Route to resources

As Sharada mentions, an MDP is a great way for a professional to get a chance to use the quality resources, including teaching faculty, available at a reputed management institution. “What you get at say, an IIM, goes beyond brand recognition, you get the sort of coverage on a topic that few others can match,” she adds. Currently, several institutions such as the IIMs, S.P.Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJIMR), Indian School of Business, Xavier Labour Relations Institute amongst others offer both open programmes for individuals and customised programmes for organisations.

When asked about the structure of MDPs at SPJIMR, Professor S.K. Palekar, chairperson – executive education, says, “We do not do open programmes as we prefer to choose topics and create material based on a company’s requirement.” He explains with the case of a programme structured for Larsen & Toubro. The company had a clear mandate – to equip high potential mid-managers to become capable of handling general management challenges. “The company and us sat together and picked the most suitable candidates for the programme. We believe in keeping the group homogenous as that is when we can impart an actionable difference,” says Palekar. Says Abhoy K. Ojha, chairperson, executive education, IIM-B, “A customised programme is typically based on the specific needs and requirements of the client organisation, as articulated by their top management and human resources (HR) department. The programme directors have meetings with the client management, HR staff and a representative list of potential participants. In the case of repeat custom programmes, the feedback of participants as well as HR and management is taken as input for the design of future programmes.” An important element in these programmes is the aptitude of its participants. And Ojha explains that for the open programmes, the participant profile is specified to ensure there is no disconnect between expectation and delivery.

A wide range of topics are addressed through MDPs such as entrepreneurial leadership, global management, competitive marketing strategy, risk management, customer-based business strategy amongst others (see box). As for course material, Ojha says, “The course material is a combination of case studies, reading material, presentations and text books as determined by the instructor. In some cases, the programme could involve management games, role plays, presentations, panel discussions, interaction with practioners/experts from industry, site visits, project writing, and the like.”

Bringing in clients

The best measure of success for MDPs is the number of takers amongst corporates. SPJIMR alone, has over 20 corporates who do repeat programmes and IIM-B has conducted 40 open programmes and close to 80 customised programmes in the current academic year. There is a clear marketing strategy that institutions employ that includes mailing lists, media releases and more. “Starting this year, we are using road shows to meet with potential client organisations and IIM-B alumni to widen publicity to our programmes,” says Ojha.

Ultimately, nothing markets like success and to help get there, choosing the clients you want to work with is key as their attitude towards training can be a deal-breaker. Palekar says, “We do not deal with organisations who view training in a fixed, time-based manner. Instead, we prefer to work with those who are interested in measuring the learning.”

From an organisation’s stand point, an MDP is a wise investment as it is less generic than an executive-MBA and helps employees gain a broader perspective as working in an organisation can get uni-dimensional. “MDPs help employees understand and incorporate best practices from industry,” says C.D. Ramesh, senior vice-president, HR, Kotak Mahindra Bank. “There is also an aspirational value here to attend a programme at one of the nation’s top institutes. It sends out a message to employees that the organisation wants to invest in their personal development,” he adds. Govind agrees, “As an entrepreneur, I would definitely encourage my employees to participate in such programmes as apart from enhancing skills, they also achieve a social need as there is a feel good factor involved.” While Govind himself has attended more than one MDP, Ramesh says that Kotak Mahindra Bank, typically, participates in three to four customised programmes with management institutions across the country. The company prefers customised programmes over open programmes as it can monitor the content and ensure that it is satisfactory. “We always run a pilot programme before going forward and establishing a firm relationship with an institute,” adds Ramesh. Both Govind and Ramesh justify the cost of MDPs for the value-addition they bring. “At the end of the day, we depend on institutes to upscale our employees’ skill sets as there is no internal expertise that can match the resources on offer,” says Ramesh.

While MDPs are catching everyone’s attention for the right reasons, there is a certain question on the learning one can achieve in under a week. “The biggest take away for a participant is a change in his or her thinking. It is tough to address the minutest detail of a given topic within the time span of the programme. Post programme development depends on interest one shows on furthering knowledge and turning that to practice,” says Govind. It does seem like the onus lies more with participant than provider, but, institutions are doing their bit to bridge the gap between theory and application by being vigilant to change.

Programme Title    Institution    Duration
Transformational Leadership: Tapping into your Personal DNA    ISB    19-23 February, 2011
Stepping into Leadership    ISB    06-09 March, 2011
Creativity and Innovation as Core Competence: Developing Personal and Organizational Capability    IIM-A    29-31 March, 2011
Risk: Modeling and Management    IIM-A    06-10 September, 2011
Innovation, Strategies and Corporate Performance    IIM-A    22-27 November, 2011