Designing For Results
BY JACK J. PHILLIPS AND PATTI P. PHILLIPS
ART BY MAXWELL COOPER
July/August 2019, Chief Learning Officer
Imagine you are an executive education provider at a prestigious business school. You have some of the most respected faculty in the world, with great content, innovative design, and participants from some of the most admired and respected organizations attending your programs regularly. The feedback from your reaction questionnaires is awesome. The participants love your material and the experience you provide. Clearly, this program is successful — right?
Now, let’s suppose your participants leave this program and never do anything with what they’ve learned. With no application of content, there is no impact on their work, their community or their families. If this occurred — no application and no impact — would you still consider your program successful? This is a tough question. But for the executive education sponsors, those who pay for it, the clear answer is “no,” your program is not successful.
As an executive education provider, you could say, “We gave them a great program and we know they learned powerful content. It is up to the participants to make it work. It’s out of our control.” This creates a dilemma for executive education. To be successful in the eyes of those who pay for it, usually the top and senior executives, it must add value to the organization. That often means moving beyond classic behavior change measurement, usually evaluated through 360-degree feedback. The new challenge is for program providers to address the issue of application and impact up front and not wait to be pulled into these issues by the client.
Executive education has been an important phenomenon in the past two decades. Most universities offer executive or continuing education in some format and the cost, quality and reputation has changed tremendously. It is now estimated to be a $30 billion industry in the U.S. alone. Globally, that goes well over $100 billion. With this tremendous growth, use and cost comes a need for accountability, causing some universities and other education providers to measure the value of these services.
Most important, it is causing some of the key clients who spend large sums of money on these programs to question return on investment in these programs.