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How Is Exec Ed Innovating with Program Design to Meet the Needs of the Modern Learner?

A new Accelerated Management Development Program from Michigan’s Ross School of Business shows how top business schools are evolving their offering to better meet the changing requirements of executives taking the step up to leadership

 

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With all we have learned from the Covid-19 crisis, with the coming of Industry 4.0, with the shadow of climate change and a myriad of other societal challenges, it has never been more important that the world has great business leaders. Nor has it ever been so exciting and potentially rewarding to be one.

As with so much of our working lives, the methodologies used to develop great leaders are changing too. Traditionally the route to enhancing one’s general management skills and accelerating one’s career trajectory has been through a one or two-year, on-campus MBA or EMBA program—and indeed these full-scale programs remain the gold standard in business education.

In today’s digitally enabled world, with all that has been learned about remote learning through the pandemic—and in response to modern learners’ needs in terms of speed of return on investment—other fast-track options are emerging.

Elsewhere IEDP has explored the rise in popularity of ‘Mini-MBAs’, and a new certificate offering from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business is an innovative new program designed in this mould—offering exemplary learning for managers ready to take the step up to leadership, in a flexible, cost-effective, and time-efficient way.

The Accelerated Management Development Program is completely virtual, mixing live online sessions with faculty, with robustly designed asynchronous work. The program is made up of four required foundational courses and one elective course, and it takes five to six months to complete.

“We believe it is unique in the marketplace,” says Melanie Weaver Barnett, Chief Executive Education Officer at Ross, “not because of any single factor, but because of a combination of four key factors, that taken together creates the best kind of learning experience available today.”

Innovative Program Design: Four Key Factors

These are the four factors that typify this new approach from Michigan Ross:

1. Topic Integration: There is a ‘red thread’ connecting the program’s courses together, combining two EMBA-level content areas into one for each course. Two faculty members work closely together to connect and integrate their content in ways designed to make the course more meaningful to the business environment of the participants. The combinations are: 

  • Finance and accounting: Analytical thinking
  • Strategy and economics: Strategic thinking
  • Marketing and supply chain: Value-driven thinking
  • Leadership and management: People-driven Thinking

2. Application of learning: Acknowledging that the best way to learn is to apply your learning and deepen that learning from the experience, the program has multiple opportunities (requirements for the certificate) for application and the associated 'mindful learning' cycle. This is something that has been at the core of Ross Michigan’s executive education offerings for many years—and something they see as vital to retain in their virtual programs. As participants take the online program at or close to their workplace, the opportunities to apply what has been learned are almost immediate.

3. Coaching by subject matter experts: Participants have coaches assigned within the subject areas for help with any area in which they are having trouble or want to enhance their understanding further. It is also an exceptionally diverse faculty team in terms of background, experience, and expertise.

4. Assurance of learning: Assignments and assessments form a key component of the program. These are carefully devised with learning outcomes in mind, and ample opportunity is given for participants to gain the full understanding required to complete each course and achieve the certificate. The certificate not only gives individuals kudos, but it provides companies that enrol these executives with a proof of the learning. (Although still to be confirmed, it is highly likely that successful completion of this program will be accepted as part of the application materials for Ross’s Global MBA and Executive MBA degree programs.)

Taking the Step Up to Leadership Today

Program director, Gwen Yu, Arthur Andersen Professor of Accounting, points to a typical issue for the modern manager, “After years of executive education at Ross what we have discovered is that participants are well versed in their own individual functions but oftentimes they are in silos.” Leaders need to see the bigger picture across their own organizations—the issues facing each business area and how they interact—and they need a clear understanding of the industry sector and the wider ecosystem their business occupies.

The Accelerated Management Development Program exemplifies then, a new breed of executive education offering designed to meet the needs of the modern executive, at this very particular moment in time. It is intense and concentrated and brings together a group of faculty “which are the best of the best of the best,” according to Yu—and it offers the credibility and rigor that is synonymous with a top University-based business school like Michigan Ross. At the same time, it offers the great flexibility of self-paced, remote working, a unique capacity for personalization, and the sophistication to ensure participants can benefit from the camaraderie and professional networking with a cohort of peers around the world.


Corporate cliches are for yesterday’s business. Today's business calls for a new kind of leadership, one that sees beyond yesterday’s cliches and creates meaningful change, the kind of change that yields long-term, sustainable results.



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