ATD Blog

Designing a Global Leadership Program That Gets the CFO’s Attention

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

At the ATD 2016 International Conference & Exposition in Denver, Terrence Donahue, corporate director of learning for Emerson Electric, and Roy Pollock, chief learning officer of the 6Ds Company, presented on Emerson’s new global leadership program, Leading at Emerson. The program has many innovative features, but what makes it unique is how it got the attention of the CEO of this $23 billion global manufacturing company.

In the session, Donahue and Pollock explained how the team revitalized Emerson’s Leading at Emerson program. To do so, they introduced two new concepts: learning scrap and the need to move the finish line. The idea of learning scrap particularly resonated with senior leadership. They understood the cost of manufacturing scrap, and worked hard to track and eliminate it in their facilities. But they had not considered that learning scrap—training people receive but never use—was equally, if not more, expensive than manufacturing scrap.

Reducing learning scrap required the company to “move the finish line” for training by recognizing that the real work starts when the Leading at Emerson ends. Participants need to take what they learned and apply it to their day-to-day roles in ways that enhance their effectiveness and improve the productivity of their teams.

To underscore that point, the CFO recorded a video in which he reminds Leading at Emerson participants that the training represents an investment Emerson is making in their future. He charges them to set a meaningful goal for improving their leadership, work on it diligently, and report their progress on a capstone call.

When redesigning the Leading at Emerson program, the team used the 6Ds approach throughout the process, from concept through global implementation.

The first principle of 6Ds is to define the business outcomes. In redesigning Leading at Emerson, Donahue asked the senior management to complete the phrase, “Leading at Emerson will be a success when . . . ” The results were four key outcomes about how the program would contribute to the company’s success. These became the “true north,” which guided all the decisions about the program’s structure and execution.


The second principle is to design the complete experience, not just what happens in the classroom. At Emerson, this meant giving as much attention to the preparation, implementation, and achievement phases of learning as to the instruction itself. The concept of the new finish line is emphasized throughout, beginning in the course description.

The third principle, deliver for application, means to teach in ways that facilitate application back on the job. This principle is reflected in Learning at Emerson in the following ways:

  • two-thirds of the workshop involves practice and feedback
  • participant materials are designed around job aids
  • 80 percent of the sentences in the material begin with action verbs
  • the course utilizes 27 different instructional methods.

The fourth principle is to drive learning transfer, rather than leave it to chance and individual initiative. In the Leading at Emerson program, transfer begins with the call to action video from the CFO. A transfer-of-training strategy is woven into each module. Participants also conduct a post-workshop briefing with their manager within one week and work toward a report-out after 12 weeks.


The fifth principle is to deploy performance support to encourage continued effort and increase the probability of success. The team included QR codes in participant materials, which link to short videos that reinforce the key points of each topic, and refer back to specific page numbers and job aids in the participant guide. To underscore the global nature of the program, the videos feature trainers from different regions and countries.

The sixth and final principle is to document the results, both to highlight the value created by the program but also to identify opportunities for continuous improvement. The main vehicle for demonstrating results from Leading at Emerson is the capstone call, which is held 12 weeks after the program. On that call, leaders report on their goals and accomplishments as a result of applying what they learned. Every week current and emerging leaders report compelling, credible, and relevant business outcomes catalyzed by their global leadership development experience.

“The title ‘valued business partner’ has to be earned,” explains Donahue. “When the CFO accuses us (in the nicest of terms) of ‘moving the price tags on learning and development’ to deliver value to the company, its employees, and its shareholders, then we’ve done our job.”

Download Donahue and Pollock’s complete ATD 2016 presentation, How to Raise the Value of Global Leadership Development (With the CFO’s Help!). You can learn more about the 6Ds in ATD’s Learning Transfer Certificate program and The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning.  

About the Author

Katherine Xu is the specialist for ATD Global at Association for Talent Development (ATD), the world's largest association dedicated to those who develop talent in organizations. She supports the ATD Global department by facilitating the exchange of knowledge among the global learning and development community. She also helps manage the Global Perspectives topic, where she supports professionals around the world to share regional best practices, conduct global benchmarking, and discuss cross-cultural and global talent development issues. Katherine graduated from The George Washington University with a Master of Professional Studies in Public Relations.

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