Personal development integrated with company development

I recently returned from a trip abroad where I spent face-to-face time with a client company. Yes, we successfully use Skype for much of our coaching and development sessions with individuals, but going into the client company allows for groupwork.  And it also allows for enjoyable (and valuable) social things like going out for a meal and a drink afterwards!

The client company has 12 people (‘key employees’) participating in the bquest system. They have done a year of Personal Development Plans, implemented either through structured formal Learning Contracts or through a loose rolling program of coaching sessions. The original ‘theme’ for their development was ‘reducing costs’ – in effect we said at the start ‘While you can develop whatever is needed for you to raise personal performance, we want you to think carefully about how your development can help reduce company costs.’ This theme provided sufficient alignment of personal and company interests without acting as a straitjacket. Also, allowing participants to go for more structure or loose coaching or a mix of the two allowed them to find their own preferences when it comes to development.

At the end of the first year, each participant has been able to show how they have individually developed and what improvements they have achieved. The financial payback has been significant. From our observation, in addition to the expected benefits of any good development system such as raised confidence and motivation, we saw a growing energy and momentum for company innovation and change; we saw the beginnings of a new culture.

There were three new themes that emerged:

  1. lean manufacturing
  2. linking the company through an ERP IT system
  3. rebranding and improving marketing/sales

Production improvements can raise productivity between 30-50%. To achieve this, the production planning system needs better information about demand and supplies. The marketing team need to increase dramatically the quality of their forecasting and to improve their decisions about what will make for an optimum product portfolio. And they and their sales colleagues need to find customers for the increased production.

In the second year of the bquest system, participants will continue their personal development, but they will now be working more together, cross-functionally, on joint actions in those three themes to improve the company. Very exciting times!

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