Monthly Archives: August 2009

Innovating Leadership Development

 |  Leadership, Resources

The “new normal” is a business environment typified by continual and fast-paced change. Success in this dynamic business environment requires a highly adaptable workforce. That means constantly building capacity by upgrading and acquiring new skills and knowledge, developing new attitudes, and changing behaviors. Adaptable leaders and organizations will be the ones to survive and thrive.

The Situation

Cisco has a tradition of hiring, developing, and retaining the best people in the high technology industry in order to drive successful business transformation. Vital to that process is the capacity to assess and develop talent, enabling employees to maximize their contribution to the organization. To support the important work of Talent Management, Cisco introduced the C-LEAD Leadership Framework, a matrix of five competencies that characterize what is referred to as “Cisco 3.0 Leadership.” These competencies are being incorporated into several processes, including training, coaching, performance management, and succession planning.

Ecstasis Response

Ecstasis has worked with Employee Development to build a comprehensive leadership assessment and development program for leaders in the Customer Advocacy organization. The design incorporates the C-LEAD framework into all aspects of the program. The Intensive Leadership Program, as it is called internally, was designed with these objectives in mind:

  • Generate self-awareness of current leadership ability and create the desire to learn
  • Understand the roles and functions of leadership – globally and cross-functionally
  • Increase awareness of personal development areas and support ability to align career development to personal strengths
  • Encourage C-LEAD Mindset, Skill Set, and Tool Set

In place since 2002, this program is aimed at experienced, high-potential managers and directors. In 2009, Cisco asked for a redesign to reduce travel costs while keeping the high-touch experience that is so important to leadership development work. Ecstasis developed a six-month leadership development program employing a blended learning approach that consists of:

  • One week in residence capped with a one-day assessment center experience with group exercises and role-plays with actors
  • Eight synchronous, virtual learning modules using Web 2.0 tools
  • Field work to support immediate application to driving business transformation and people development
  • 1:1 coaching over six months for each cohort member
  • Group project work aligned to corporate initiatives culminating in presentations to senior executives

All learning modules are based on leadership first principles and leading edge thinking on innovation, change management, and organizational development. These highly interactive virtual learning sessions are designed to provide 80% small group discussion and practice and 20% lecture, covering relevant topics:

  • Transformative leadership
  • Human behavior and emotional intelligence
  • Innovation
  • Coaching
  • Systems thinking
  • Change management

Ecstasis used existing materials and conducted research as needed to generate program resources incorporating the Cisco brand.

The Results

Results from an internal survey conducted by Cisco indicate an overall rating for the programs run in FY2009 of 4.26 on a 5 point scale. Results from an external, anonymous on-line survey conducted six weeks post-program yielded an overall score of 4.86 on a 5 point scale. The redesigned program reduced expenses by 35% (not inclusive of additional saved travel expense) from the previous fiscal year.  Projects also generated ideas, that, when implemented, will result in additional revenue.

On average, 93.5% of leaders report that the program increased their capacity to drive the business forward. 87% of leaders report that the program enabled them to better develop their people. 88.4% of leaders would recommend the program to colleagues seeking personal and team development.

Here are comments from two recent cohort members:

“If you’re ready to stretch and grow, this program and environment will position you to ratchet it up a level or two. Excellent opportunity to meet and interface with not only Cisco execs, but also talented cohort team members. However good you are – you’ll get better.”

“I am an advocate of this experience and I recommend it to many colleagues. It forced me to take a pause and spend quality time reflecting on people around me including myself and better understand them and myself. Intensive program is a fantastic way to look into the mirror and help you identify things you are doing good and things you need to enhance…and it shows you how you can get better and from there on it is up to you!”

Conclusions

Cisco has made great strides in developing its leadership capacity and leveraging its talent. The Intensive Leadership Program continues to be an effective component of their talent management strategy. Ginger Crowne, Program Manager, CA Employee Development: “This program is unlike any other high-potential leadership development program at Cisco. Most of our distinguished alumni continue to serve as leaders across CA and Cisco.”

Overall the Intensive Leadership Program is having a positive impact on the organization. They recognize a growing capacity for dispersed leadership, collaboration, and innovation in a fast-paced, and stress-inducing business environment. Their commitment to a serious, innovative talent management strategy, including leadership development is a key differentiator that increases Cisco’s competitive advantage in recruiting and hiring new leadership talent.

To read the Case Study, click on the Resources link above.

Response to Otto’s Question

 |  Leadership

In his recent blog entry, Otto Scharmer writes, ”

i am just returning from a three day cabinet workshop in a country in Africa. the purpose was on reconnecting the political leadership with the real needs of the communities. in preparing the workshop, the Prime Minister talked about “poverty” in the context of the MDGs (Millenium Development Goals) and about the “poverty of ideas” in the context of development strategies, that is, in the context of development economics. it was really special being together with this community of leaders that all share the same background: the liberation struggle of taking their country from dependence to independence. the years of the liberation struggle stood out to a level 4 change experience for all of them. now, after independence, and after moving into government, of course it is much more difficult reconnect with that level 4 experience on a collective level. the leadership challenge that most of them face is a double split: a horizontal split (silos among and within ministries) and a vertical gap (separating the political leadership from civil servants and the real needs of the communities on the ground). so the question for them is this: how can we, in our everyday leadership work, cross these two gaps?

any ideas on that?

Here is my response to Otto:

Hi Otto: Your question, “how can we, in our everyday leadership work, cross these two gaps?” is a good one in that it reminds us of the reality that macro-systemic change is interdependent with micro-systemic change (the individual leader). In our work with leaders, teams, and organizations we constantly remind the individual and the collective of the need to seek the edge and the next opportunity for change. We give them the visual of an infinity loop to remind them of the scope of their work: driving organizational change (in this case a government or ministry) on one side of the loop, and on the other side of the loop facilitating the development of the people with whom they collaborate to bring about change.

To live and lead in this leadership loop, the individual, the team, and the organization want to be living and leading within a U as well. So the question becomes, how do you provoke and evoke the continual reflection and dialogue necessary to enable positive transformation at every level so as to ‘mind the gap’ and minimize the negative impact of these naturally-occurring splits in the larger system.

There are three questions I would continuously pose to the leaders in this (or any system attempting to manage large scale change): What do we need to do? What do we need to stop doing? How do we need to show up (as individuals and collectively) in order to achieve our objectives? That would be a fun conversation to convene!