Sam Bown, Head of Open Programmes, Executive Education, at London Business School, explores the top challenges facing corporations in a shifting business landscape.
Our research looks at the external and internal challenges that are a key concern for managers - from senior executives to new leaders. Our insights can help you to support your managers with the tools to address these challenges in your organisation.
London Business School is ranked one of the top five business schools in the world (by the Financial Times) for our Executive Education programmes. Quality is maintained through a rigorous evaluation process that ensures content remains at the cutting edge of thought leadership.
As part of our evaluation process we regularly undertake research, which includes an extensive survey of our Executive Education participants, an examination of alumni evaluation feedback as well as interviews with faculty, external contributors, alumni and clients. But the findings highlight the top challenges individuals and organisations face in today’s business environment and allow us to shape our decisions around clear priorities.
There are some key influences which we predict will have a profound global impact over the next 10 years. Managers at all levels are rightly concerned about how they will impact their business as the socio-economic context and the competitive landscape changes.
An ageing population, health challenges around obesity, regulation, ambiguity and technological developments, such as, 3D printing and developments in neuro-science are some of the influences we’re looking at.
Managers will have to think hard about how changes in these areas will affect them. Will the fact that people are living longer mean they’ll split their careers differently? How will new technology affect our workplaces in the future? These questions impact strategy and introduce new challenges for business leaders.
Concerns around these areas were particularly prevalent among the participants surveyed on our Accelerated Development Programme (ADP), aimed at those transitioning from specialist to general management and the participants surveyed on our Senior Executive Programme (SEP), designed for senior executives responsible for leading their organisation or business function.
Tackling internal challenges
For senior executives, internal challenges are just as important as external pressures. Three in particular; improving performance, organisational change and growth, were high priorities, according to the survey.
Organic growth and how to foster it is a key concern, along with how to formulate, design and execute effective strategy. For the first time, we’ve introduced a diagnostic element in SEP for senior executives to really examine their individual challenges and look at how to develop practical strategic responses to them.
Corporate governance is also an important focus for senior executives. Concerns were around what it means to be a board member, what regulations you need to be aware of, what your responsibilities are and how an effective board functions.
Different priorities for different stages of management
All three groups surveyed listed economic climate, a changing competitive landscape and regulation as their top three concerns. But, when we drilled down further, their next level of priorities were more specific, and differed greatly depending on what stage of management they were at.
For example, participants surveyed on the ADP rated individual leadership ability as of high importance. Making the personal transition from functional manager to general manager was an immediate challenge. Some of their other priorities included: attaining a work/life balance, sustainability issues, leading across global boundaries, creative thinking and effectively utilising new media.
Meanwhile, for the more senior executives surveyed, concerns tended to be less about personal leadership and more around developing and implementing top-level strategy while maintaining growth. A key lesson from the review was that senior executives are looking for practical guidance on how to implement what they learn.
In contrast, for those on our Leading Teams for Emerging Leaders (LTEL) programme, individuals moving into their first management position, leadership and influencing skills were important. The main issue people were trying to get to grips with was ‘how do I move from being an individual contributor to getting things done through others?’
What does this mean for our programmes?
The findings paint a vivid picture of priorities for managers at all levels and allow us to focus our Executive Education programmes on the most relevant challenges for individuals and organisations.
As a result of our most recent survey, our ADP, SEP and LTEL programmes have incorporated new innovations.
LTEL, formerly the Emerging Leaders Programme, focuses on organisational behaviour and leadership skills. The team-based programme looks at delegation, performance monitoring, coaching and relationship building.
It combines this with practical innovation including a visit to Silverstone, the home of British motorsport, for a collaboration challenge.
Looking at business challenges in a practical way is something that features on the ADP as well. There’ll be a focus on business skills and we’ll be launching management experiments on the new programme so that participants can engage specifically with some of the questions around disruptive influences.
The SEP enables participants to implement what they learn through a wide range of interventions including simulations, role play, coaching, group assignments and international studies to deliver learning with a practical focus.
Working to LBS’ unique FLARE™ methodology, all elements of the programmes are embedded in reality. The carefully developed process works around five key principles: Focus, Learn, Apply, Reflect and Experience, all centered on the individual and their role in the real world.
Supporting your managers and senior executives
Our research has identified the concerns and challenges faced by individuals at different levels of management across a diverse group of organisations. Your managers are likely to be facing the same or similar challenges. You can support your senior executives to manage your organisation and Board by providing them with practical frameworks for strategy execution, managing change and corporate governance. For your people transitioning into management and general management roles, leadership training and practical leadership experience will help them to lead your organisation confidently. Where work/life balance is a clear concern, you may consider working with these people to develop clear lifestyle KPIs.
By constantly re-evaluating what we offer, our Executive Education programmes are carefully attuned to deliver practical solutions to some of the biggest challenges faced by your managers and your organisation.