Many businesses approach the Executive Education program at the Eli Broad College of Business in search of instruction. What the college looks for first, however, is insight.

“Often when we talk with companies, they may approach us and they may say, ‘do you do x? Can you teach us x?’ And they’ll start with content. We typically will ask them to step back and say, okay, help us understand why you believe that content is relevant. What are your current challenges and problems?” said David Frayer, assistant dean for executive development and professional programs.

Only then can the college tailor a unique program to help a company not just solve the problems of today, but anticipate and create solutions for tomorrow’s business challenges.

Dave Frayer headshot

David Frayer

“At the end of the day, what are you trying to achieve?” Frayer said. “Then, let’s use that to guide development of a curriculum that will deliver that kind of desired outcome, because frankly, if you understand the challenges and the issues and the problems that are facing the business, and why they want their people to be different or to do things differently or to see things through a different lens, the curriculum becomes pretty easy to design.”

That’s the sort of relationship the Broad College has with the Parker Hannifin Corporation, a global leader in motion and control technologies based just outside of Cleveland, OH, and one of around 20 corporations currently working with executive education leaders for custom education programs that range from day-long to multiple weeks in length.

And it’s a relationship that’s worked well for Parker Hannifin, resulting in tangible results with real-world applications, said Mark Anzelc, the company’s vice president for supply chain and Tom Gentile, vice president for global supply chain.

Parker approached the Broad College in 2017 for assistance in supply chain management matters, for which the college is world-renowned. “We see executive (talent) development and recruiting as a top priority to enable our supply chain and business strategy and as such want to make the investment,” said Anzelc.

Parker was looking for several things: executive development, internships, a talent pool for recruiting, specialized training, peer networking, consulting/research services, and the like, Gentile and Anzelc said. Regarding executive development specifically, the company identified several key objectives for its Supply Chain Leadership Program.

That’s when the research process began for the Broad College. Frayer said top faculty visited key Parker facilities while designing and developing a two-week, custom executive education program on supply chain leadership that is anything but cookie-cutter.

“Most of what we teach, if the business context is not right, that’s where you end up with dissatisfied clients,” Frayer said. “In other words, if you’re talking to a manufacturer and you’re providing retail examples … usually you’re going to end up with massive disconnects. That’s why understanding the organization, the context of their business, the work that they do is so absolutely critical.”

The college launched a two-week program for Parker in the spring of 2018, where a group of employees from different Parker business units and their managers came to the Broad College’s Henry Center for Executive Development in Lansing.

Henry Center

The Henry Center for Executive Development

That was followed by a second two-week program in the fall. A third program started this spring. Central to the programs have been student-run projects tackling a real-world dilemma for Parker.

“From a learning priorities standpoint, we’re about providing advanced, forward-looking insights; industry-specific, tailored content; globally-relevant examples; applied learning; individualized coaching and mentoring; and return on investment,” Frayer said.

More classes are planned for 2019, Frayer said: “They have literally hundreds of supply chain professionals on the waiting list to get into the program.”

According to Gentile and his team, Parker is building great relationships on multiple levels through its work with the Broad College.

“While time will tell, we have seen an excellent response from participants of the leadership program. They are energized and engaged,” said Anzelc. “One key leadership program element has been a capstone project tied to Parker’s business priorities that is proving some applied learning, breakthrough thinking, and sustained benefit. We are also actively recruiting graduates, participating in the MSU SCM (Supply Chain Management) Council, and engaging in other collaborative work.”

Establishing a long-term relationship is critical, in Frayer’s view, to justify return on investment and establish the college as a resource to which the company can return as new issues arise.

“The reality is, if you’re working with a university, you can’t afford to do something once and to never do it again … think about the investment in the development of a program like this. If you’re looking to do it once, it’s going to be unbelievably expensive,” Frayer said. “But if you’re going do it multiple times over a period, then all of the sudden it makes sense for us to have our faculty invest in understanding the company and what they are trying to do.”