A springboard to success - using programmes to grow your future leaders

Research conducted by PA Consulting indicates that finding future talent is one of the biggest challenges faced by today’s CEOs. Traditional routes to the top, via a succession of increasingly senior operational roles, do not expose ambitious people to the full range of experiences they need to be effective leaders. 

In today’s ever changing world, future leaders must be able to manage change effectively to grow their organisations. They must navigate a path through complexity, inspire confidence in times of uncertainty, make fast, informed decisions and engage their staff every step of the way.

Projects and programmes provide some of the most stretching and challenging roles in organisations today. They are exactly the place where future leaders can acquire the experiences they need to support their development.

We have identified four ways in which you can use programme roles to grow your talent:

  1. Developing leaders in a changing world. The business and financial skills that people acquire through a conventional career path are important. Being good at conventional management is just a small part of the skill-set that leaders need. In today’s world, organisations undergo almost constant change. Some are already running their businesses as a portfolio of programmes which means that project and programme management experience is even more valuable at board level. Organisations need to adapt to develop their talent; experience of delivering programmes is a great way for future leaders to cut their teeth in a change environment.

  2. Targeted opportunities. Research by PA proves that businesses that think seriously about how they develop future talent and embed talent management practices in their organisations perform better financially than those that don’t. Senior leaders can boost returns by playing their part in the talent management process, championing talent development and mentoring future high-flyers. The breadth of challenges involved in complex, high profile programmes provides targeted and motivating opportunities for your organisation’s future leaders. Some of the most successful organisations incorporate these opportunities in their development programmes.
  3. A commitment to sharing. Moving talented people from one part of the business to another will enable them to gain the ‘stretch’ experiences they need to develop into future leaders. However, sharing talent is often fraught with difficulty. Bureaucracy, a desire to hang on to good people in a particular area, fear of being allocated less-talented people, and resistance on the part of employees themselves are all factors limiting effective talent development. A commitment to sharing talent needs to come from the top.

  4. An untapped source of talent? Your projects and programmes may also be an untapped source of talent. In our experience, complex programmes provide your people with a breadth of management experience enabling rapid development of the right qualities and experience to make successful business leaders. When searching for future leaders, organisations should look at those in project roles as well as operational roles, offering new opportunities to help them realise their potential. Allowing PMs to manage the business areas that have been changed by their project is a great way to ensure they ‘live the change’ and gives them the operational experience they need to be future leaders.

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