Mark Burbridge - Shareholder/Main Board Director By Mark Burbridge, Oakridge Director


At a recent Oakridge event, which we hosted with Mills & Reeve and invited leaders in their various fields of industry, we shared and debated some very useful conversations about the impact and return on the investment around leadership and management development programmes, including what ‘megatrends’ are impacting on business and how this effects leaders and ways of working.

My colleague, Brigit Egan, provided an insightful presentation on the recent research we at Oakridge conducted this year with public and private sector organisations to establish examples of good practice on Leader and Leadership Development. The white paper report is titled: ‘Contemporary Policy and Practice: Leader and Leadership Development’.

We share with you briefly here just some of the key findings in the report we discussed:

  1. Leadership development programmes now are much more aligned to the needs of the organisation concerned, followed by creating a strong performance culture.
  2. Programmes are less prescriptive and more individually tailored.
  3. Coaching is now the most consistently employed leadership development activity.
  4. Whilst annual spend on Leader and Leadership Development programmes is often substantial there is little evidence of measuring the impact on either the individual or organisational performance.

My focus here however is on the overall return on investment, the ROI for organisations – which was one of the key issues discussed during the event.

There has been such a strong focus on evaluation forms over the years and some good initiatives around three-month follow ups, however it occurred to us that perhaps we have been looking in the wrong area for evaluation?

Most of our recent leadership and management interventions have been designed after working closely with the organisation to understand what the business is trying to achieve and what expectations are of ‘Thinking Leaders’. Teasing out key drivers around costs, increase in revenue, smooth reorganisations and customer focus has enabled us to align development discussions to core business needs.
But what of evaluating the impact of the development?

This is where we fall back on the core Oakridge philosophy around driving three key changes through development interventions of Mindset -> Skillset -> Visualset->

From a ROI perspective it is important to measure the impact on the business, as well as on performance from a team perspective.

We found that programmes which were most successful were those firmly anchored to the specific strategic and operating plan of the organisation concerned. Using a strategic plan outline, together with a competency framework and a values statement, helps to ensure that the leadership development programme is totally aligned to the organisational agenda.

The development interventions we discussed during the evening focussing on Mindset, Skillset and Visualset helped to create some real dialogue around what these interventions meant:

  • Mindset – getting people to think like leaders and to understand that they are ‘Business People’ as well as ‘Technical/Professional Experts’. We all have responsibility to improve the way we work in our own area
  • Skillset – providing simple, pragmatic tools that leaders can apply from the following day in order to allow them to slow down, think, assess and improve their situation
  • Visualset – encouraging leaders to identify exactly what behaviours they will see that demonstrates people are thinking in their teams.

It is the last area on Visualset that throws up the greatest opportunity to measure ROI. Leaders can trigger off-line ten minute problem solving, ‘coaching while walking’, team application of error prevention tools, cross functional expectations exchanges, three-way briefings etc in order to get involvement where it counts.

Leaders themselves can also be involved in cross-function improvements, using action learning techniques to help identify options for improvements.

In practice, we encourage attendees on our development programmes to work on projects back in the workplace and to apply the tools we share with them. From our experience, when leaders group together and come up with their own project titles and goals we see a marked increase in motivation and dedication to completing the project, with the added bonus that this makes the development experience much more than the facilitated classroom environment.

From an ROI perspective, it is far easier to measure the impact on the business from these back-to-work projects. They often have a financial cost saving element to them related to process, resource, quality and production improvements.

From a team perspective, seeing our team members engage in ‘thinking’ activities rather than diving in to immediate action also pays dividends with the quality of improvements.

We also work with our clients to develop a strategic plan outline together with a competency framework and a values statement. This helps to ensure the development programme is totally aligned to the organisations agenda.

And, as organisations are busy places and post-event evaluation often goes unchecked due to pressures on time and new organisation demands, we set-out to agree levels of ROI evaluation prior to the start of a programme or assignment.

Please click on our ROI Matrix here to view it larger:


Our goal here with the client is to achieve Level 5 success where we can jointly and confidentally evaluate time and cost savings. Read our case study here of a programme we developed for ASCOM where there was significant cost savings to the business.

We would be delighted to talk to you about what we can do for your business. Please contact joanne.sharp@oakridgecentre.co.uk who will arrange for either myself or Brigit Egan to be in touch.

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