By Michael Blanding
Illustration by Mark Allen Miller
Business leaders know this: Change is a constant. It may be the only constant in an ever-changing business environment driven by new technology, markets, and shifting regulations.
But what happens when you are the one charged with teaching others how to change? That is the question that Booz Allen Hamilton found itself grappling with 10 years ago. The company faced an increasing demand from its consulting clients for information and guidance on how to weather organizational transformations.
“We wanted to find a way to create a cadre of experts truly versed in organizational change management,” says Scott Barr, deputy chief transformation officer at Booz Allen Hamilton.
When they could not find an existing program that could teach that broad range of skills, the company turned to the Office of Executive Education at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business to help them create one.
“We wanted to partner with an institution that could give us a bit of cache as well as the academic rigor and access to experts in the space,” Barr says.
Unlike most business schools with executive leadership-training programs, McDonough does not have an out-of-the-box curriculum.
“Research consistently shows that leadership is highly dependent on context,” says Ashley Baker, associate dean of custom programs in McDonough’s Office of Executive Education. “You see books like The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan, and unless you are leading bloodthirsty warriors, the transferability of what you read is going to be pretty limited.”
Instead, the McDonough team works with companies to design custom programs that serve their unique set of circumstances. Over the past decade, McDonough has partnered with numerous Fortune 500 companies, consulting firms, global financial institutions, and universities to help even experienced leaders tailor their skills to fit their changing needs.
Often, the practitioners coming to Georgetown to learn are high-level leaders in their organizations who have proven themselves and risen through the ranks. However, that does not necessarily mean that their skills are suited to the challenges of the current marketplace.
“Experience can be both an asset and a handicap,” Baker says. “What we are able to do in university-based executive education is bring the best of people’s experience to the front while also bringing the best research into the classroom and understanding how it applies to their specific environment.”