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Hybrid Learning On the Job: A Software Company Trains First-tier Managers



A large software company had promoted many first-tier managers from the technical ranks. The new managers had little management experience and lacked a clear idea of how to add value as a manager. Most importantly, the managers were failing to align their goals, priorities, and operating plans with corporate strategy.

The poor understanding of corporate strategy was evident across the company's many business lines, so a simulation-driven training program would have been too broad to be relevant to all participants. Instead, Socratic Arts suggested that managers practice a simple 4-step strategy alignment process, on the job, over the course of 5 weeks, in which they:

  1. Confirmed the business goals. First-tier managers researched their business line's strategic goals, determined new priorities based on these goals, and confirmed their understanding with their managers.
  2. Connected the dots. First-tier managers met with peers to articulate their shift in priorities, identify opportunities for alignment and negotiate any conflicting priorities.
  3. Built a plan. First-tier managers drafted a high-level plan for alignment and got their manager's approval.
  4. Sustained team buy-in. First-tier managers articulated their plan to their team and sustained team buy-in.

During the program, participants followed the strategy alignment process on the job, receiving support in weekly remote sessions. The course spanned 5 weeks. Each week, remotely, participants worked through one step of the business alignment process by filling out a template and accessing resources related to that step. The managers also attended a 1.5 hour remote class in which a guest speaker gave a short presentation on skills related to that particular step, followed by a Q&A session. Each participant also had a mentor available to respond to their questions.

In week 4, while they were working on Step 3, participants attended a 2-day classroom session in which they built their business alignment plan. During the session, participants met in small groups with colleagues from their line of business, presented their plans and gave one another feedback. Later, within each line of business, managers presented plans to a mentor, and received feedback.

The program provided a clear process for aligning a manager's day-to-day work with the company's larger strategy, and minimized class time while maximizing on-the-job learning for a very busy population. It paved the road for significant change by requiring participants' managers' input in the process and by having participants meet with cohorts on a weekly basis. Participants were particularly motivated and engaged because they got immediate on-the-job value from their efforts. The alignment of operating plans with corporate strategy improved significantly and new managers continued to use the process long after completing the five-week program.

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