Discovering how firms align executive development with business strategy: a grounded theory study
Bellefeuille, Joseph Harmon
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More and more frequently firms are finding it necessary to terminate chief executive officers (CEOs) due to poor organizational performance. This is happening despite the fact that executive development spending is increasing significantly during the same era. These simultaneous situations would suggest that there is a need for a theory to bring clarity and direction to the process of executive development while aligning it with firms' business strategies. A comprehensive review of the literature reveals that there are no well-understood theories that relate executive development strategy to business strategy. The lack of a theoretical foundation makes it necessary to derive the linkage between business strategy and executive development strategy empirically. This study was designed to determine how and to what extent the participating firms achieve alignment between executive development and business strategies. It is founded upon the premise that for a firm's success to be sustainable, its environment, its business strategies, its executive development strategies, and its executive development activities should all be aligned. This study provides both a theoretical and a practical analysis of the alignment between business strategy and executive development strategy. The theoretical analysis is grounded in a review of the twentieth-century history of organizational theory as well as the theories pertaining to business strategy and executive development strategy. The practical analysis was drawn from the experiences of senior-level managers employed by twenty-one commercial firms to design and guide executive development. This research utilized interviews of executive development specialists as the primary means of collecting data from the subject firms. The analysis revealed four key concepts: aligning executive development and business strategies, linking executive development to the business environment, integration of executive development with other corporate systems, and the utility of top-level executive support for executive development programs. The study resulted in a conceptual model of the focus firms' approaches to achieving alignment between executive development and business strategies. These findings imply opportunities for policy makers and practitioners as well as future researchers.
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