Tim Westerbeck, President of Management Education Enterprises, has a thought-provoking article over at Business Week's site about executive education. He argues correctly that companies increasingly want more customization in the leadership development offerings provided by business schools, consultants, and other management education entities. Despite all the talk about customization, many business schools offer very limited amounts of it. The "off-the-shelf" nature of executive education continues to frustrate many companies.
Beyond that, Westerbeck argues that companies should not only focus on high potentials in their development programs. They have to think about the whole enterprise, including senior leaders. He argues that you can, in fact, teach an old dog new tricks.
I would take his argument one step further. Many firms do have multiple programs, with each development program tailored to a different segment of the employee population (i.e. each program focuses on a different level in the organization). I would argue that firms should consider programs designed at mixed populations. Get senior leaders in a room with more junior executives. Connecting people across levels of the hierarchy has great potential for improving collaboration, communication, and innovation in organizations. Moreover, connecting senior folks with promising young people can help executives understand better social and technological trends, as well as frustrations that young people feel in large, complex organizations.