As the former director of the Executive MBA program at a university in the Midwest, I often found myself saying to my students that the goal of the program was to help them put the pieces together and begin to think at the enterprise level. What I meant by that is taking into account the success of the organization as a whole rather than viewing it from the perspective of any one function or division. An enterprise perspective means understanding how the parts of the organization work together to create value for its stakeholders. In order for an organization to be successful in delivering on its mission, the associates and leaders must first understand the mission and second, understand their role in helping to achieve it.
Whether it is a small or large business, a not-for-profit, or a governmental agency, having leaders who understand the DNA of the organization is critical for sustainable growth. I have worked with numerous organizations as a consultant and an educator, and the one thing that the successful organizations have in common is the investment in continuous learning for their leaders. The most successful didn’t merely make an investment; they first spent time understanding what to invest in.
Did the next group of leaders need to learn how to work together? Did they need to understand the industry context or the key issues that the executive leadership deemed important? Maybe what they needed was technical knowledge to lead more efficient processes. Whatever the strategic need, the best organizations were able to pinpoint where they wanted to be in the future and then engage trusted advisors and key leaders to get there.
Learning and development isn’t just for large organizations; these are necessary ingredients for the success of any organization. Educating an individual in the organization not only improves that person’s ability, it raises the level of the entire organization and allows it to build or sustain a winning enterprise.
Perhaps former Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders said it best:
“To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It’s not about winning and losing; it’s about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It’s about embracing the pain that you’ll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid. I think people think too hard and get afraid of a certain challenge.”
Whatever your organizational challenge, a university can be a tremendous thought partner, an advocate for building organizational capacity through learning, and ultimately a place where you can find the tools to build an enterprise that is ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century and beyond.
Power up! Let’s build something together!
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