New Leadership Offering From Stanford

Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is all set to launch a new executive education program aimed at helping high potential managers deal with business challenges. Titled “Executive Leadership Development: Analysis to Action,” the program will be kicked off in 2012 and will be held over two modules – one in January and the second one in April.

“Usually most of our programs are targeted at very senior executives – we either look at the C-suite or a couple of notches below. But this program is actually targeted at a completely different segment than one we have gone after before,” says Priya Singh, assistant dean of Stanford’s office of executive education.

Stanford foresees a huge demand for this program, particularly in the Bay Area despite the high price tag of $30,000 because of the need to constantly develop the next generation of leaders. “It is designed for emerging leaders who will be senior leaders tomorrow and then will face their business challenges,” adds Singh. “It’s really about driving change, resolving strategic problems and helping managers build their own teams and their own business and management acumen and leadership skills.”

The program has a multi-pronged approach to help young managers develop analytical tools, management acumen and interpersonal skills. It aims to equip participants with the necessary skills required to analyze and solve problems on their own, instead of relying on a cookie-cutter approach. It also offers an optional leadership coaching component at an additional cost of $3,000.

Intentionally Small

Unlike other schools, Stanford has been very selective about launching new programs. “We just don’t rush to launch new programs as we want to make sure that there is something unique about the offering we have,” says Singh.

Stanford currently offers around 45 executive education programs in a year and in the 2010-11 fiscal year, 1,895 executives participated in these programs. Compared to other schools, the size of Stanford’s executive education is pretty small. By comparison, Wharton has about 9,000 executives attending its programs each year. With the new $345-million campus in place, Dean Garth Saloner plans to increase Stanford’s executive education offerings. “Our goal is to double our business and revenues from executive education by 2020,” says Singh.

Despite the plans to double its courses, Stanford will continue to remain an “intentionally small” player in the executive education market. “So even if we want to double our revenues by 2020, we do that by very consciously still understanding that by 2020, we’ll still be one of the smaller providers. By being one of the smaller providers and by limiting our programs and the capacity in each program, we can maintain our high-touch model and premium brand status,” says Singh.

More Open Enrollment Programs

So far, Stanford has maintained a 35:65 ratio between custom and open enrolment programs even as a lot of other executive education providers are starting to lean heavily towards custom programs. “There is no shortage of custom business for us as is the case with the other people. And it is extremely lucrative so it’s very tempting to shift that balance and focus more heavily on custom programs,” says Singh.

But Stanford will continue to maintain the same balance between custom and enrolment programs. “When you run open enrolment programs, you are touching a much larger number of organizations at some level overall. It is a conscious step on our part because our vision is about delivering our faculty research to as many senior-level executives in as many organizations as we can,” says Singh. “And we can accomplish it with that sort of breadth if we focus (more) on open enrolment versus custom.”

Another reason for the small proportion of custom programs is that Stanford says it is extremely selective about which clients to take on. “(We go in for) custom clients where we can develop a more strategic partnership with the organization at the highest levels. So if we think we can actually have a partnership with a company where we can actually have wider and deeper impact on their overall organization,” says Singh. Currently, Stanford has such engagements with Caterpillar and a Mexican company called Alfa. In both those instances, programs are being developed at the highest levels with the goal of having long-lasting broad and deep impact. Both these cases are multi-year engagements.

The Road Ahead

Going forward, Stanford will push for 25-30% new content in all the executive education programs. “Instead of just introducing a whole host of new programs, we want to make sure that our programs that are already successful have a significant element of new fresh content in them,” says Singh.

Like most other executive education providers, Stanford also saw applications fall in 2009. “We did see a little bit of a dip but we continued to be selective through that because we figured that we didn’t want to compromise our quality of participants,” says Singh. “But last year and this year we have seen a pick-up in our business. With the economy wavering like it is now, it is a little hard to predict what next year will look like, but so far the signs are pretty good.”


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