How IA helped develop strategic leaders at Curtiss-Wright Flow Control

The Situation

Curtiss-Wright  Flow Control (CWFC) is an American-based, global diversified product manufacturer and service provider for the commercial, industrial, defense, and energy markets. Created in 1929 from the consolidation of Curtiss, Wright, and various supplier companies, by the end of World War II it was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States, supplying whole aircraft in large numbers to the U.S. Armed Forces.

CWFC's senior leadership team established several strategic objectives as part of the company’s plan to create a sustainable competitive advantage in the marketplace.

One of these objectives was to hire and retain the best talent in the industry and they started by developing the managers and leaders of the entire organization. CWFC partnered with Interaction Associates to design, develop, and deliver a leadership development curriculum that mapped to their leadership competencies. The efforts began with development programs for first-level supervisors and managers and mid-level managers and leaders. These successful efforts were followed by highly customized learning experiences for the next two levels of leadership, the Strategic Leaders and General Managers of each of the 26 business units.

The Solution

In this groundbreaking initiative, one key goal was to create a shared cultural understanding and alignment and give the leaders the tools and skills to execute consistently with the cultural values. Interaction

Associates created a spiral Leadership Curriculum that re-visited core concepts and models at each level of leadership and expanded on these concepts as appropriate given the particular challenges of each level of leaders. The Strategic Leaders (direct reports of General Managers) and the General Managers completed customized applied and action learning programs to support the key objectives of the business. The customized General Manager Program included a multi-perspective approach designed by Interaction Associates.

Interaction Associates partnered with an inside design team at Curtiss-Wright Flow Control to build business acumen, strategic thinking, and collaborative capability by teaching participants to examine the business from four perspectives: finance, change management, operations, and talent. During this program, participants examined their businesses based on this variation of a “balanced scorecard,” which would typically view the business from financial, customer, operations, and organizational perspectives.

Senior functional and line executives participated in teaching each of the four perspectives, and were coached to use relevant collaboration skills in the context of each presentation. The strategic context is explored through both a PESTE (political, economic, social, technological, and environmental) analysis and a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats relative to competition) analysis.

“We selected IA as a partner because their content and delivery style is consistent with the cultural values we are trying to instill in our leadership. Our leadership development program was intended to be not only a program to train our leaders — but also a strategic initiative to change the culture. We have stayed with IA because they have exceeded my expectations on what they originally promised to deliver and as our needs have grown they continue to be able to deliver.”

- Donna Tanenbaum, Former VP, Human Resources

The Results

Participants reported better implementation, strategic decision making, collaboration techniques, and application of skills to effect change management. Many participants appreciated the ability to use a common language when coaching and leading. Many also pointed to experiencing an increased capability in coaching and managing employees.

One GM reported, “I believe the Curtiss-Wright Flow Control leadership development program has made a noticeable difference in my thought process on how to handle the tougher decisions in the business and how I’ve been more methodical in the interaction and coaching of my staff and employees.

The program has also raised my awareness in how I’ve executed the business plan successfully in these extremely tough economic times.”

Another volunteered, “The major impact has been in the access to additional easy-to-implement tools and techniques to help me in the continual struggle with leading/coaching vs. managing/doing. I have seen an improvement in my leadership ‘efficiency’.” Another GM said, “Also the change management models have been useful in planning for changes.”

Strategic Leadership Skills

Understand the business opportunity, make wise decisions, and plan a complex implementation.  

Expand Leadership Skills and Capabilities
Using a state-of-the-art simulation, participants work in teams to solve a business problem, imagine alternative scenarios, and decide how to pursue an emergent opportunity.

Develop Strategic Thinking and Build High-Potential Bench Strength
After this program, leaders are more able to see the big-picture and guide a practical, inclusive approach for assimilating data, understanding complexity, and drawing sound conclusions.  

Improve Decision Making and Execution in a VUCA Environment*
Consistent application of program skills and tools advance the strategic aims of each participant’s business group by socializing a common language for collaborative visioning, scenario development, decision making, and implementation and execution. 

* volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous

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