While the development of future leaders is a top priority for Human Resources executives in today's global economy, sustaining the funding for formal leadership development programs is a constant challenge. Read how a multinational manufacturing firm made its leadership development program a profit-making enterprise using an innovative, on-the-job action-learning approach.
Molex, the worldwide manufacturer of electrical components, faced a conundrum common to large organizations: How do we sustain corporate commitment to developing leadership talent in the face of relentless pressure to reduce overhead costs? Molex addressed this global leadership talent challenge with a formal development program for high-potential managers that provided intensive training in finance, operations, marketing and leadership disciplines over a two-year timeframe.
For program director at the time, Marilyn Steffel, assembling a faculty and curriculum to teach the company's philosophy (along with systems and practices aligned to financial, operational and marketing functions) was relatively simple. The bigger challenge was bridging the gap from the classroom to the workplace.
We wanted our high potential managers to go back to their jobs and apply what they learned to show the pay-off, but we found the transition difficult for participants and nearly impossible for us to measure.
As Steffel stated, "We wanted our high potential managers to go back to their jobs and apply what they learned to show the pay-off, but we found the transition difficult for participants and nearly impossible for us to measure."
At a professional association meeting, Steffel learned about Leap Technologies' Rapid Action, a process that was being deployed at a number of peer organizations to promote employee engagement in continuous improvement and innovation projects. Steffel recounted, "It struck me that Rapid Action was potentially the bridge we had been looking for to connect leadership development back to the job in a meaningful and productive way."
What specifically caught Steffel's attention was the easy-to-learn, just-in-time design of Rapid Action that would equip program participants with an "all in one" team engagement toolkit and roadmap for leading business improvement projects back in their workplaces. Steffel worked with Leap to integrate training in Rapid Action into the program curriculum.
It struck me that Rapid Action was potentially the bridge we had been looking for to connect leadership development back to the job in a meaningful and productive way.
Rapid Action was introduced to participants through a simulation activity designed to tackle an actual Molex business improvement challenge. After experiencing this highly engaging team process for rapid improvement, participants (working in pairs based on location in most cases) developed proposals for launching and leading Rapid Action teams to tackle critical performance issues in their department or plant. The challenge given to participants was to go back to their organizations and lead an improvement project modeling what Leap refers to as "The DNA of Faster Improvement," and supported by the Rapid Action Toolkit.
About six months later, program participants reconvened and reported on their Rapid Action team experiences and results. A total of 17 Rapid Action teams, led or co-led by 35 program participants, had been engaged in 14 different country locations. Sample assignments and results achieved:
Planning and leading a Rapid Action team also produced significant benefits for aspiring new leaders. As one program participant from Singapore commented, "With Rapid Action I gained a tool to quickly and easily get more participation from people on the production line. As a result, new ideas emerged that we hadn't considered before."
With Rapid Action I gained a tool to quickly and easily get more participation from people on the production line. As a result, new ideas emerged that we hadn't considered before.
Molex succeeded in raising the bar on its already-successful leadership development program by adding Rapid Action to its curriculum. It can now boast of a "two-for-one" benefit from its investment, as participants acquire a reliable process for engaging employees and leading teams back on the job, while the company reaps business improvement savings that have more than covered the program's budget for years to come.