Ford Motor Company has been the object of some highly visible political comments in news headlines of late. But the company has proven itself not only a lasting performer among U.S. automakers for a century, but also a leader in ... well, leadership.

In a new case study from i4cp—Reshaping Global Leadership Development with Five Next Practices—Ford demonstrates how it applies cutting-edge high-performance practices to deliver a strong development program that aims to keep its executive pipelines stoked with leaders who have what it takes to keep Ford at the top of markets that stretch worldwide.

Global Executive Leadership (GEL) is the branded learning experience Ford leverages to build global leadership skills in its senior managers and vice presidents. GEL Global Program Manager Barbara Gamm oversees the program and has led a redesign that closely aligns content with Ford’s core values and the company’s philosophy and beliefs about leadership talent and development.

The new GEL expands the program while streamlining its delivery schedule and leveraging multiple media to shift from an event perspective to one emphasizing ongoing development opportunities. Says Gamm, “We’re looking at it as a continuous curriculum of learning leveraging technology, both synchronous and asynchronous learning, blended learning, the simulation, and other experiential options. Before, between, and after two live off-site training sessions, development will be ongoing in leaders’ workplaces.”

A strategic approach to program design

Ford’s GEL program is built on strategies that recognize the validity of proven techniques and concepts and take them to new and stronger levels. For instance, Ford kept in mind this premise: Don’t just establish a baseline, learn from it. But putting the premise into action made a real difference.

Changing business goals signaled that it was time for Gamm and her team to evolve the development program, so the group began with a thorough analysis of the historical GEL (established a baseline). They gained insights by examining metrics, program structure, vendor interactions and other factors (learned from the baseline). The global GEL team gained insights from that examination that helped drive a rich new design.

Applying i4cp’s next practices

The case study describes in detail a total of eight key strategies Ford used to retool leadership development. It also presents five powerful next practices in development that i4cp research confirms to be actions strongly linked to market performance, but not widely used by most organizations. That combination of limited use and better performance offers companies unique opportunities to compete more effectively.

Among the five next practices Gamm and the global GEL team chose to leverage are these:

  • Using blended simulations. Pairing live and virtual simulations enables leaders to take advantage of the best of both worlds when it comes to learning. GEL participants take part in a live simulation during off-site classes, but access learning materials and use online technologies to add a virtual component.

    Fewer than 20% of companies use live simulations to develop leaders, and only about 12% use virtual simulations. However, about one in four market-leading firms take Ford’s blended approach, a method strongly correlated to market performance and organizational learning effectiveness.
  • Leading beyond enterprise walls. Establishing external relationships and leading beyond the enterprise are key elements in achieving business results and competitive advantage, a next practice identified by i4cp’s research into global leadership development.

    Ford uses community and philanthropic service opportunities to help GEL participants hone their skills while also strengthening bonds with the many locations in which the company does business. High-performance organizations use beyond-the-enterprise development at a rate three times that of lower-performing firms.

Get the full case study of Ford’s Global Executive Leadership program (available exclusively to i4cp members) to learn how your company can adapt design strategies and next practices to drive high-performance leadership development in your organization.