Case study TRW The formal exec

Case study


The formal executive development programme introduced by TRW Inc. provides an interesting example of how an international firm grow its global leaders. TRW Inc. is a US firm inaugurated in 1901 and its headquarters are in Cleveland, Ohio. This $17 billion global firm specializes in automotive, space defence and IT. Moreover, they employ 110,000 staff in 35 countries, 50 per cent of whom are non-US natives and 40 per cent of their total incomes is generated abroad. Although the company was prospering on the international level, it was diagnosed by senior management that they lacked global leaders, who would succeed in managing and organizing the business in several countries at the same time toward the shared target.
Developing leaders within the whole firm is a primary focus for the TRW human resource department. Furthermore, the programme is a blend of formal training, organized assignment management and in progress management succession and career design. At TRW, in-house organized corporate learning connects learning and development to the firm’s crucial strategies. The aim is to transform the firm’s experienced leaders into global leaders who would drive change. TRW leadership training programmes are based on divergent cross-business groups in order to provide senior managers with various viewpoints on their jobs. In addition, the programmes help stimulate network building and contribute to the lessons learned and best practices. Also, actions learning challenging business tasks were included with the intention of strengthening the learning activity and to connect theory with practice.
Among the TRW executive development programmes, the Business Leadership Program (BLP) is aimed at the top 1 per cent of managers who have the potential to move to the top of the firm’s hierarchy. The major subjects tackled in the programme include global strategy, leadership style and behaviour, culture and organizational aptitudes. Moreover, the programme incorporates several learning procedures: lectures, discussions, breakout group assignments, individual reading and project work, 360-degree feedback, case studies, team building interaction and action learning projects. The duration of the programme is two years with a five-month interval between the meetings. The first module takes place at a conference centre in order to enable interaction between the managers from different areas within the company. The second module it is conducted in Cleveland at the firm’s headquarters so that participants can meet senior management.
The Global Leadership Program (GLP) was TRW’s next educational programe tailored to the needs of senior managers in order to compensate for their lack of global competencies. The human resources department had a synergy with an academic establishment that had experience of delivering global business education. The new programme was tailor-made to fit the needs of TRW managers. Eighteen vice-president-level managers participated in the 20-day GLP programme split into three modules. The participants represented operations that took place in five nations in TRW’s automotive, space and defence divisions.
The first module was held on the TRW academic partner’s campus and facilitated by external experts. The content incorporated case studies from various global firms to study theoretical context of global leadership. Among the specified aims of this module were detecting opportunities and identifying the necessary capacities in global business; evaluating TRW global SWOT analysis; and appraising personal consequences were some of the aims of this module. In order to link theory to practice, the second module was an action-learning project. Some 18 executives were put into three cross-business groups and sent for a week to China on a global assignment. The goal was to face a challenging strategic task using the learning from the first theoretical module. The third module was held in the firm’s headquarters at Cleveland. Within three days each group had to present the lessons they had learned during their global assignment, to the other groups and the management board.
The second version of the Global Leadership Program (GLPII) included the same three modules but the emphasis was put on developing market-driven strategies. Moreover, the three groups were sent to three different nations: Poland, Brazil and China. Each action learning team had a different project to pursue. This occasion was a whole experiential learning about the local culture, themselves and to interact globally in diverse regions.
The aims of TRW training programmes in facilitating competitive advantage in the global market are threefold. First, by developing global leaders to be efficient and sensitive in various international settings. Second, by creating culturally diverse executives with a variety of experiences and backgrounds, hence, offering the firm a wide range of business solutions. Lastly, by having global leaders who do tolerate ambiguity and adapt to unfamiliar situations.

For more details, see Bradford Neary and O’Grady (2000).

Review question

1. What would you suggest, as a senior manager, to include in such a global training programme?

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