Gaining Clarity Around Strategy: Ingersoll Rand

It was only fair:  they made top management go through the program first.  Ingersoll Rand CEO Herb Henkel knew that the change he had engineered in his company’s business model—from a durable goods manufacturer to a global diversified business with recurring service revenue streams—had profound implications for people development.

With over 90 plants from the Americas to Europe to Asia and a well-oiled multi-site corporate university already in place, Ingersoll Rand was ahead of the curve compared to many.  Yet leaders at every level clearly needed to internalize new models in order to think more strategically about creating value, evaluating risk, and ensuring profitable growth.

A new complex of programs developed under the vice president of enterprise learning, Rita Smith, then dean of Ingersoll Rand University, came to be known as The Leadership and General Management College.  Its curriculum had to be both comprehensive and customized, yet readily adaptable as markets changed.  Focusing on moments of major leadership career transition, Smith and her team crafted new competency models to define the expectations for leadership at various levels, and adopted an ambitious bench-strength goal of having two fully-qualified candidates for every strategic leadership role.

Ingersoll Rand leaders must be effective stewards of talent and developers of people, Henkel and Smith knew:  they would be asked to play an active role in corporate education, emphasize its importance, and share their practical experiences and personal learnings.  Hence the decision to put the presidents of each line of business through the program first.

The overt topics to be covered in programs included

New managers were to strengthen their leadership capabilities, develop strategic decision-making skills, and prepare both to drive change within the company and build organizations that could compete globally.

Easy to say.  Under Smith, the learning and development team recognized that education partners were needed, and at least one of them had to be able to facilitate collaborative and creative design on the front end, and provide global delivery on the back.  For that role they chose Duke Corporate Education.

Duke CE’s Know-Do-Believe model helped frame the outcome, and Ingersoll Rand added a fourth component: Achieve.   The combined Duke CE-Ingersoll Rand team recognized that changing people’s beliefs would be critical—and difficult.  But her company’s leadership needed a consistent set of beliefs, reasoned Smith, or they would struggle to keep the organization aligned and focused on achieving strategic goals.  Traditional executive development, she knew all too well, often ignores this important element without which new knowledge and skills are not put to work effectively.

Employees must really understand what the strategy is, why it makes sense in the business environment, and what each of them can do, individually or in a team, to support that strategy and make it a reality.  Even if education did nothing more than create that clarity, that uniformity of understanding, that unanimity of purpose, the gains in productivity, retention, and morale would be more than enough to justify the intervention, Smith knew.

Yet what set Ingersoll Rand’s Leadership and General Management College apart among executive education initiatives was not just its high degree of customization but the active involvement of company executives in that customization.  “We don’t develop anything unless it has executive sponsors,” as Rita Smith told Chief Learning Officer magazine.  Since the resulting programs were directly linked to specific business outcomes and long-term enterprise strategy, no one could complain about their relevance.  And the active participation by Ingersoll Rand leaders in program design and sponsorship, assessment, and often delivery (as instructors) became one key to success.

It worked on every level.  There was dialogue between employees and managers before, during, and after a program:  managers coached, supported, and measured post-program performance, and suggested changes to participants’ development plans based on the program outcomes.

Many hundreds of senior managers, directors, and line managers have graduated from The Leadership and General Management College.  Says CEO Henkel, “Laying the track for the future is much easier if someone has shown you a map and given you directions on how to get there . . . to me, that’s what Ingersoll Rand University is all about.”