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Results Of Development Centres

Here are a few examples of which Valerie Stewart is especially proud:

  • Restructuring a major bank:
    A large retail bank realised that it had to undergo major changes in the number of managers they employed and the skills they looked for in their retail managers. All branch managers and senior staff were put through an assessment/development centre, with individual feedback. Two of the most important measures of success were: (i) despite the fact that everyone knew that the process would lead to redundancies, we had only three appeals from a pool of more than four hundred people, and (ii) when 18 months later a local business school conducted a follow-up survey they found correlations between prediction on the programme and later performance in post that were so significant that they didn’t need to use statistics to show the effects.
  • Developing A State-owned Subsidiary
    In an economy heavily dependent on agriculture, there was a State-owned subsidiary whose mandate was to subsidise the farming of marginal land. When it was privatised, the CEO said that he wanted to ‘grow bigger people’ although he didn’t know how. Dr Stewart and her colleagues ran Development Centres and other initiatives, in the course of which they uncovered a surprising number of people whose talents were not being used effectively. The privatised business is now one of the world’s largest corporate farmers, and returns to the government in tax each year more than ten times the amount it used to draw in subsidy.
  • Growing An International Food Processing Company
    A significant international food processing company has used Valerie Stewart’s Development Centres as part of their management training. Their success measures include: better assessment of risk; improved management of overseas suppliers; more effective responses to crises; better identification and promotion of investment opportunities; more voluntary sharing of information and resources, with less silo management and wasteful internal rivalries:
  • No More Nick Leesons
    In 1995 Valerie Stewart was asked by a major multinational bank to design their graduate recruitment assessment programme. The brief included the instruction ‘No more Nick Leesons’ (the trader whose unauthorised and unsupervised activities had brought down Barings Bank earlier that year). She used three exercises from her library, including one that mimicked the Tragedy of the Commons situation and one where the emphasis was on spotting imminent business disaster, cancelling the project that was responsible, and refusing to throw good money after bad. In the short term, none of the most interesting things to emerge was that while in the UK and Europe the applicants achieved the expected pass rates, in the USA not one applicant performed successfully; Valerie was gratified – but also somewhat apprehensive – about the fact that the senior management recruiters elected to make not one single job offer. But vindication came in the 2007/financial crash: this bank, although as large as some that did go under, came through the crisis almost unscathed – at about the time that ‘our’ managers would have reached positions of responsibility. This is a cause for some pride.