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Leadership Development Can Be Your Strategic Differentiator

Tuesday, April 05, 2011 | Category :
    • Accelerator

by Tim Blakesly

Strategy Execution was the #1 concern for CEOs for two years running, according to Conference Board research, yet it remains one of the greatest challenges faced by organizations. Why so elusive? Over 25 years of working with leading companies, we have identified the three essential drivers of superior execution: alignment, mindset and capability. A misfire in just one of these elements will result in sub-optimal performance.

Accelerate Strategy Execution with Key Leaders in Your Organization (It’s Not Your CEO)

The largest groups of leaders who have the opportunity to build alignment, inspire mindset and develop capabilities are the front-line and middle managers. Along with their direct reports, these managers touch every single employee in an organization and impact every client relationship. In 2009, the BTS Leadership Development Practice launched Front-Line Execution to consolidate best-in-class leadership development programs into a series of experiential learning journeys, comprised of the most critical leadership essentials. This approach centers on a unified, consistent, globally reaching program, driving consistency in behavior, yet with capacity for local delivery.

Invest More in Your Front-Line and Mid-Level Leaders

In most organizations, executives and technologists receive the lion’s share of development resources. But front-line and mid-level leaders are truly responsible for strategy execution and business results. Research shows that companies spend far more on the development of executives and technical specialists (23% and 25% respectively of training budgets) than on the critical audience of front-line and middle managers, or 9% of total training budgets. In a study by Bersin and Associates, only 27% of the organizations studied linked management development to strategic results. The great majority of companies studied rely upon a patchwork of disparate training courses linked to personal development, as opposed to the 27% who used an integrated learning approach tied to the business outcomes. Why don’t these important populations get more attention?

Execution and Learning Journeys

Developing leaders who help others to perform at increasingly higher levels cannot be accomplished through single-event training. Execution and Learning Journeys address building leadership and managerial capability through a holistic approach. The journey starts off with a “prime” phase.

This stage establishes the business and personal relevance for participating in learning—creating a personal rationale for achievement and a line of sight to desired business outcomes. Leaders and managers then engage in learning and grow new capabilities (whether delivered through group workshops or delivered to groups of learners through virtual technology). This is followed by learning sustainment, which is about enriching, continuing and reinforcing the primary learning.

Learning and Execution Journeys are positioned to address the learning style and needs of generations X and Y, better known as Millennials. They are the first to regard behaviors like Tweeting and texting, along with websites like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Wikipedia, not as astonishing innovations of the digital era but as everyday parts of their social lives and their search for knowledge and connection. These generations take business simulations and experiential learning as a given. The use of learning portals leverages, and emulates on a professional level, their natural tendency toward networking and collaboration.

If you’re ready to work at a strategic speed, then consider how the principles of sustained learning will provide your key leaders with the techniques they need to succeed.


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