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Achieving relevant and accredited management training – interview


Clearworth Clive Hook of Clearworth talks to TrainingZONE how accreditation with the CPD Business School has enhanced their development of relevant and effective management training programmes.

What's the history of Clearworth?

I imagine it’s similar to other smaller management training providers. Our clients were and are exclusively blue chip corporates and we provided a range of programmes delivered along pretty traditional lines, two- to three-day workshops, hole punched handouts, happy sheets at the end and programmes evaluated by the weight of the binder. I think we did a good job but we had a nagging doubt about what difference we were actually making. We wanted to develop an approach that was more closely linked to the organisation’s strategic intent not driven by worthy but rather abstract intentions about personal development or, even worse, because someone in HR had been on a similar programme and had found it very valuable.

Part of our work included designing and implementing business and management strategy for organisations under the Strategy by Design aegis and we were interested in bringing this and management learning closer together. We created the Clearworth, m@sterclass® and f@sterclass® brands to signify the departure from our previous work.

Mystery PractitionerWe were struck by a realisation that technology would change the landscape of learning and we could either drive that change or wait for the bus to arrive. We chose the former and have since been entertained, frustrated, annoyed exasperated and delighted by our journey towards blending senior management development with relevant technological advances.

Our efforts were fuelled by the amount of nonsense we saw being peddled as e-learning for managers and this hardened our resolve to get it really right for experienced managers and leaders. We remain passionately serious about putting learning, not techno-whizz, first and constantly reviewing and re-inventing as we learn about the challenges and how to address them.

How long have your programmes been running?

We have three separate m@sterclass® programmes running in one large organisation and they have been in place for over a year, so the first one is due to complete this Summer. We have another m@sterclass® in a publishing and conference organisation where the entire board of directors is going through the programme to improve their individual and joint competence as a team and that will complete in the Autumn. We are about to launch our series of f@sterclass® programmes which provide a similar approach but for single topics, such as Strategy, Influencing, Projects etc.. These are designed to run for 6 weeks with groups or teams being immersed in the topic and using all of the available technologies and support during that time.

Why did you feel the need to get your programmes accredited?

Our initial search was driven by a client organisation’s request to provide tangible evidence of achievement as part of the management development process. One of the objectives was to improve management capacity in the organisation and external accreditation was seen to be an appropriate yardstick. I guess we’ve developed our thinking somewhat and now see accreditation as something that gives learners feedback, validates their process and progress (but only if there is regular feedback not one shot exams) and provides structure and direction for the learning. At another level I believe that the psychological contract between employer and employee has changed and that the best an employer can provide is continued employability (not employment or job for life) and accreditation allows people to demonstrate their achievements to current and future employers.

How did you find the accreditation process?

At first very hard work, but tedious rather than arduous. We had discussions with a number of institutions who were very interested and seemed more than willing to work with us. Perhaps the lure of 21st century technology and corporate funding and all that was key. But when we explained about collaborative learning a look of horror crossed their faces – the term they were used to for collaboration was “cheating”? They liked the idea of group work but accreditation was about individual effort and most could not imagine a way round that – despite our pointing out that teamwork was actually quite big nowadays in the corporate world. CPD Business School was like a breath of fresh air after that.


[See our interview with Dr Richard Hale of the CPD Business School, on Getting your training accredited]

In what way was CPD Business School different?
Firstly they understood corporate learning and management development and shared our values around people being responsible for their learning, management learning happening through taking action etc. Their commitment to Action Learning and their subsequent approach to accreditation both aligned with our design and improved on it. Once we had explored the process and established a way to work together it was a transformation. Learning is now designed around answering action-learning questions so managers are not aimlessly amassing data in case it is useful. The programmes are more focussed and learner-centred and people really understand what they need to do to attain the standard – but it’s not about being able to recall the models used by the lecturer. Also we get active involvement from the directors of the organisation because they sponsor one or more action learning questions and thus have a keen interest in the work undertaken.

Are all your programmes aimed at managers?

Pretty much so. On the m@sterclass® programmes Directors, Leaders, Managers, Executives, all feature in the job title list amongst our attendees. Our bias is towards experienced people in positions of authority where, typically, they have responsibility for people as well as products, processes, profits and projects. A real benefit of the CPD Business School accreditation approach is that it takes experience as well as (if not more than) qualifications into account. Our learner profile is usually educated to degree level or beyond (we have four MBA’s on the programme at the moment for example) but some very competent managers may have not pursued the traditional academic route.

Our f@sterclass® programmes have a wider remit although they are not for people in the early stages of work. We have designed the f@sterclass® approach for groups of managers across an organisation, management teams and project teams who need to build their knowledge and skill in a particular area fast but want something that is designed to build on their experience not teach them basics.
It’s important to note that not everyone on our current programmes is following the accreditation route. Some people feel unable to commit to the extra effort and rigour that route requires. We are thus accommodating those people and their learning needs as well as those on the Masters in Management track. My bias is towards the CPD Business School accredited route because of the extra benefits it provides for the learner and the organisation but we understand why people may not be able to make the commitment and want to serve them too.

Your web site describes you as Serious, Passionate and Opinionated – what does that mean?

It means we care deeply about what we’re doing and we’re part of that offering – our thoughts and feelings and experiences are bound up in it. So we won’t put up with organisations and individuals who treat learning as a pastime and they probably won’t put up with us! I am passionate about learning and (as most people will tell you) highly opinionated about what is right and wrong with much of management education today. We have a premium product aimed at those who take learning and development seriously and we’re not in the business of persuading organisations that management development and constant renewal is a good thing to do. Frankly if they don’t know then they won’t be around to bother with anyway.

Equally I’m not interested in debating whether or not e-learning combined with other tools is better than traditional methods etc. If you don’t think blended learning will deliver a significantly enhanced experience for managers and leaders then don’t bother – go somewhere else. See what I mean about passionate and opinionated?

Fort further information about getting training accredited, contact the CPD Business School.


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