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Agilent's Focus on Senior Leadership Drives Record Results

When Bill Sullivan became Agilent Technologies’ second CEO in 2005, he set out to transform the company from a diversified technology portfolio company that was delivering inconsistent results into the preeminent measurement company. Convinced that a best-in-class leadership bench was essential to build organizational capability and achieve positive business results, he worked with his chief learning officer, Teresa Roche, and her team to design and implement a comprehensive and integrated leadership curriculum and experience.

“Agilent leaders are highly analytical, which caused us to be reactive and slower than our competitors at key decisions. We lacked a sufficiently strong external focus on the customers,” said Sally Nowak, Global Program Manager, Global Learning and Leadership Development. “We had gaps in understanding how to create shareholder value vs. managing to budget and needed to build a culture of meeting commitments with the leadership capable of executing.”

A leader in corporate lifelong learning, CLO Roche knew that a high-profile program closely tied to the strategic objectives of the CEO and the company required a curriculum that would extend across all levels of leadership. It must be integrated into daily operations and be data driven to stay aligned with individual and business needs. “Develop needs to be a part of work, not apart from work,” Roche said.

With strong support and participation from Sullivan, Roche engaged TRI® to create a world-class development program for senior leaders.

The Senior Manager Program (SMP) is designed to help managers set strategy and direction, build organizational capability and deliver results. Within a single intense week, managers participate in a custom business simulation in which they work in teams to manage an enterprise for six quarters in a dynamic and competitive market. They practice the same skills they are expected to apply to their Agilent business.

The simulation is combined with sessions on effective team leadership, creation of a Personal Leadership Plan (PLP), discussions on operational finance, and candid conversations with Sullivan and his management team. Senior managers work closely with their GMs on the PLP before, during and after the program to increase alignment and engagement of the manager’s team on achieving the strategic intent of their business.

TIR also created a custom Customer Economics case with a detailed analysis of the economics of Agilent and its actual customers to reinforce the need to focus on customers while using sound project economics.

In addition, throughout the week, participants have opportunities to engage with their peers and consult with senior executives and TRI faculty around challenges they face in their businesses. This executive-level involvement is a hallmark of the SMP, and all agree that Sullivan’s sponsorship is key.

“The invitation and expectation to attend comes from Bill,” said Nowak. “Leaders respond to Bill’s commitment to their development and take the program very seriously.”

In the first nine months after Sullivan became CEO, all 100 GMs completed the program. More than 350 senior managers have participated, and the SMP continues to be part of Agilent’s leadership development portfolio. The SMP is the foundation for a cascaded leadership development program for all levels.

“TRI® provided our senior leaders with a challenging program that helped them think critically about meeting our financial and growth commitments in an extremely competitive global market,” said Sullivan.

Teams work collaboratively and learn the value of diverse thinking to address customer needs. With operational reviews embedded throughout the week, participants feel they are at work instead of in a simulation. The program has not only helped transform Agilent’s leadership and culture, it has become an integral part of the culture itself.

“After the first year, the SMP had such a great reputation that people were asking to get into the program if they didn’t get their invitation promptly,” said Nowak.

Since implementing Agilent’s business operating model and the SMP, Agilent has set record return on invested capital metrics and maintained positive cash flows. Agilent’s employee survey and quarterly leadership audit scores also have improved.

Another important aspect of the SMP is that it set the foundation to align the entire company at all levels with the strategic intent, which enables Agilent to be focused, responsive to customers and adaptive.

To ensure that the SMP continues to be relevant to the needs of leaders in a dynamic environment, Agilent continually monitors data to identify key factors that would require updates to the SMP.

“This data-centered approach to human capital is just smart business,” Roche said. “By building a curriculum for quality leadership throughout the company, we’ve aligned to our strategic intent, achieved a sustainable operating model, and developed the ability to adapt quickly to economic forces.”


Agilent’s Focus on Senior Leadership Drives Record Results

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