Executive Education in South Africa: The value-added - RegInsights

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Executive Education in South Africa


Business executives have to consistently stay on top of the latest trends and developments. This means constantly engaging in special conversations with experts. Failure to do so means you are operating out of an outdated mindset, or worse still, you are relying on intuition and guesswork. This can have unfortunate consequences.


Executive education programmes are delivered by business schools for executives, business leaders and functional managers. Executive education are the conversation platforms assisting forward-looking organisations to grow and transform their businesses, and to realise strategic objectives. Groups of key leaders can be sent on a bouquet of executive education programmes to embed the aligned thinking and methodological approaches within the organisation.


Over and above the technical content, a good executive education programme should provide:


Business models and practices need to respond very quickly to technological, marketplace and regulatory changes. Executive education programmes are an efficient way of keeping your expertise and knowledge up to date and relevant. It is a powerful mechanism for executives to upskill themselves while they still contribute to the workplace.


Technology is driving rapid change: new markets, industries, and new jobs are created as you read this. Part of being a business executive means that learning should be a lifelong undertaking for individuals at every stage of their career. The skills that made you exceptional last year will in all likelihood be on their way to obsolescence next year. The future of work is lifelong learning. It’s the only way to stay ahead.


Executive education programmes take on various forms. They can focus on functional specialisations: such as marketing, human resources or finance. They may focus on specific industries: mining or manufacturing. A significant executive education programme area is leadership where offerings such as leadership, persuasion, stakeholder engagement, negotiation, team building or communication are presented to great effect. Every organisation needs these skills and the appropriate manner of exercising leadership changes as the workplace and market place changes.

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Business school executive education programmes make use of the expertise of seasoned business executives in addition to academics for their delivery. This is an invaluable part of the executive education experience, as participants have the opportunity to learn first-hand from the experts who have actually led the teams and have produced the results. They also become part of an indispensable network.


Executive education can take the form of customised programmes, which are offered to the executives of a single company. Customised executive education programmes help organisations enhance management capability without taking them out of the workplace for extended periods of time. These customised programmes allow a common strategy vocabulary to be embedded in the organisation, which leads to demonstrated organisational performance improvement. Usually, these programmes do not earn credit towards a degree or qualification.

There is however a growing trend toward awarding certificates, badges and micro-credentials. These badges are often posted on suitable personal social media. They help to signify to the world that the recipient is hungry for knowledge and is prepared to make the investment in time and effort. Executive recruiters find these very useful when they search for suitable candidates.


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Another form of executive education is open enrolment executive education programmes. They are offered at different times of the year and are generic offerings of the various specialised courses. Open courses are largely based on flagship and standard programmes that the school offers. Open programmes are particularly demanding as the attendees are seasoned executives who are there for a purpose, and they will challenge statements in class on the strength of their own work knowhow and experience. Because many programmes are targeted at individuals who are well into their careers, the programmes tend to be more practical in what and how they teach. In many cases, you will learn as much from your fellow attendees as you will learn from the teaching faculty.


Business schools study and analyse why some businesses succeed and others fail, which makes for valuable insights and reduces the chances of failure. These insights and understandings are then captured within a formal programme of instruction. Executive education provides a learning environment for candidates to interact with industry leaders and trendsetters. These programmes are also great platforms for unique networking and personal career development opportunities for participants.

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Executive education programmes vary widely, and it is best to clearly define your expectations and outcomes before embarking on a search for a suitable programme. Your choice will be based on your interests, time commitments, funding available and the desired learning outcomes. Executive education courses may range from two to three days up to four- or six-week programmes which can include an overseas visit.


The more specific you are about what problem you need to solve in your business or industry, the more likely you are to get value out of your chosen programme. Executive education programmes offer insights based on research and practical expertise on how to run a successful business, they help you find ways to make the most of your local resources and discover new opportunities for growth.


When choosing a business school for an executive education programme, you should confirm that the school is at the forefront with the research it produces on business strategies and innovation. It should be up with the latest thinking in business excellence, design thinking, big data, strategic management, methods for innovation. An executive education programme should equip you with the necessary managerial skills to respond to change.

It should contain the latest thinking in business excellence, design thinking, big data, strategic management and methods of innovation. But this is not all that current and future executives have to contend with. When you add diversity, ethics, governance, cybersecurity and climate change to the mix, and a host of other sector-specific demands, you have a range of complex challenges that demand novel, innovative solutions. A well thought through a range of executive education interventions will be part of the solution.


As part of your research for finding a school, look up frameworks for business, strategy, leadership, and innovation that the school uses. Find evidence from alumni and their views about implementing the tools they have learned within their organisations. Executive education is different from theoretical education and is aimed at preparing you to be a leader in the workplace. The experiential, project-based, and immersive education offered by business schools serves to develop the skills, qualities and attributes required of future leaders.


When choosing a school, you should consider the partnerships that the school has with other accredited and acclaimed schools or organisations. This widens your network and offers learning opportunities and future collaborations with the organisations, schools or individuals from these schools. These linkages will assist in widening your own network.

Read also: Leading Executive Education – Digital Transformation in Times of Crisis

Online Executive education

Online executive education is a viable and practical way of participation on executive education programmes, minimising exposure to Covid-19 and spending less time in commuting. Topline executive education programmes will have digital functionality for individualised access to lecturers, as well as the capability to form online syndicate groups.

In-house, customised executive education programmes are an extremely powerful way of driving positive organisational change and ensuring that the organisation is a leader in its field. An intervention of this nature should start with a review of the current business strategy and current performance. This will define current strategic gaps as well as identify areas for future growth. The next step is to identify suitable business schools with the right mix of offerings to address the needs. In some cases, the business school and the client will have to design a programme from scratch. In other cases, an existing programme can be modified to meet the needs.

The participant evaluation assignments for an in-house customised programme should address real workplace problems. In fact, the assignments should be able to be taken into the workplace and implemented straight away. In this way, a constructive synergy is developed between the leadership of the organisation, the participants and the business school.

Executive education is not an opportunity for executives to get away from work, but an opportunity for a team-based approach to solving a real-world business problem. The advantages for the participants and for the organisation are many. Further, the delivery of the programmes can consist of modules offered on-site at the business school, modules offered in house at the business, and some modules offered online.

Whatever business you are in, complexity and the rapid pace of change are challenges which you have to address. Business schools offering executive education are able to provide the learning contexts to help you address these demands. The current Covid-19 epidemic adds further urgency to this imperative.

The organisations that will thrive in the future are those who gave their executives the time and the space to reflect on and think about the challenges facing them and to provide them with focused education when they need it, in the most convenient manner possible.

It is helpful to think of learning as a fixed asset. We are finding skilled teams are very much a fixed asset, and like most fixed assets they require regular maintenance and upgrades as well as capital replacement. If you are not scheduled for an executive education programme in the next 12 months, you should think again. Our world is changing too fast, for any of us to be complacent with the skills and experience we have amassed this far.

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