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Top 10 Tips for Developing an impactful Management Development Curriculum

Designing and developing an entire management development curriculum is daunting to undertake.

First, you must address:

  • Who is the target audience (e.g., new managers, mid managers, senior level executives, etc.)?
  • What is the focus of the training curriculum? Is the goal to develop specific competencies for the target audience?
  • When will the training be delivered? Will it be delivered multiple times? Does it need to be spread out over months or offered in short sessions to accommodate the manager’s schedules?
  • Why is this training curriculum needed at this time?
  • How should this training be delivered for this target audience? Where are they located?

However, anyone who has designed training curriculums know that the answers to these seemingly simple questions can be very complex. Since every group of managers in every organization has unique challenges and development needs, that means that no two manager development curriculums are exactly the same. Despite this fact, there are some best practices that should be considered in the design of any manager training series.

Here are our favorite top 10 best practices for developing an impactful management development curriculum:

  1. Have a target audience so you can focus the design on their specific needs. Being asked to design a training curriculum for “all managers” is a precursor to failure. There is no other substitute or best practice that can provide the critical data of an upfront needs assessment of your target audience.
  2. Use a pre-survey to gather data about your audience so you can customize your design even further. This can be accomplished through a simple survey of no more than five questions. The insights you can gather about your target audience are worth gold!
  3. Leverage pre-work for readings on core models that will be introduced during the program. This will save time during the program. In other words, treat your participants like adults and respect their time. They can read about the core models or research that the training will be based on. Straight lecture in a manager development learning session is a waste of valuable face-to-face classroom time.
  4. Incorporate an assessment tool to provide further data to individual participants that will pinpoint their development needs. Everyone loves to learn more about themselves and an assessment instrument can provide this data. Besides the benefit of engaging your participants, an assessment instrument will also provide you with valuable insights and baseline data about your participants. If possible, consider utilizing a 360 assessment instrument that gathers data on other people’s perspectives about the manager’s strengths and potential weaknesses or blind spots. But, watch out! Implementation of a 360 assessment is complicated and time consuming. (We strongly encourage you to think of using a well-established platform like Star 360.)
  5. Use a blended learning design for your curriculum. Having some e-learning components can be used a pre-work before the program, support learning application after the program and save time during the program. Use of webinars in between training sessions can support learning application as well as strengthening peer-to-peer learning and networking.
  6. Always allow the time for debate! Managers learn best from the experience of their peers.
  7. Apply learnings to real-life challenges. Allow time for application of models, techniques and tools to real-life management challenges. This best practice goes along with leveraging pre-work. But this is a specific type of pre-work that asks the manager to pick a current business challenge to which they can apply the program learnings to during and after the program.
  8. Pair up participants into learning partners that can work together during each program as well as between the programs throughout the curriculum. Ideally, allow the managers to self-select their learning partner(s). Some managers will want to select a partner that is from their business function while others will want an outside perspective. Orchestrating this is comparable to setting up a dating site, but it is worth the time!
  9. Design shorter classroom modules linked in a series with assignments and/or webinars in between sessions. Very few organizations can allow for the time or impact of having their managers off-line for more than one day, or even one day. Modules that are a half-day to a full-day can focus on a specific topic or competency and avoid overwhelming the participant.
  10. If possible, utilize executive coaches to meet with managers before, during and after the management development curriculum. An executive coach can help to interpret assessment scores, focus development plans and clarify how the manager will apply their learnings.

None of these best practices are, by themselves, very complex. However, it takes a thoughtful approach to designing an entire manager development curriculum to consider how to integrate most or all of these practices.

Please share your manager development best practices so we can learn collectively on how to improve how we support the ongoing learning of our managers. (E-mail dhenry@donahue.umassp.edu)

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