I have just finished a really enjoyable project (in conjunction with Instep UK) which was to design not one, but two management development programmes for Warburton’s. The first of these programs was a fairly standard program for new or less experienced managers. Each module built on the last, and the amount of stretch and challenge increased as the programme progressed.
The second of these programs was for a more senior audience; managers with quite a lot of experience or who have had training before. This was quite a challenging programme to design as everyone would be joining the program with different experience different knowledge and different skills. In addition – I would not be delivering it.
I was talking about this with my friend Roy Prescott of Grey Wizard Training. He has many years experience of working with senior teams, and as a result of our chat we agreed some fundamental principles that apply to designing training for senior teams.
1. Do your research. Both of the subjects to be covered, and the company; its politics and its environment. At this level having a little knowledge of a lot of things is not good enough. If possible speak to the participants who will be attending the training find out what issues are affecting them.
2. Don’t be too prescriptive. Training programs for this level of delegate has to be flexible. Unlike programs traditionally run for frontline staff for first-line supervisors, training at this level will only be run once or twice so you really have to tailor it to the audience. Build in lots of options and make it okay for the trainer to go “off piste” if the group requires it.
3. Make sure the training is immediately relevant. Time is money, and at this level participants will not want to spend hours doing something that they cannot see the immediate benefit of. This doesn’t mean that training can’t be fun. People learn when they are having fun, but all activities must be relevant to the content.
4. Address real-life issues. General case studies and theoretical situations are not going to add value to people at this level. Get them engaged with the program from the outset and ask them to bring real-life scenarios and issues to deal with (if you cannot obtain them during research). It goes without saying that confidentiality must be respected.
5. Use the experience in the room. The trainer will be just one of the experts who can provide advice and suggestions to help people improve their performance. A much more facilitative approach is required so timings have to be approximate and methods have to be suggestions. When designing training at this level posing questions and suggestions in the trainer’s guide for certain sections of the program may be sufficient.
Given the highly bespoke nature of training for senior managers it makes sense for this group (more than any other) for the deliverer to do the designing and vice versa. However where this is not possible making sure that the designer understands the deliverer’s strengths and style will help to make the program more robust.