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Leadership development dilemma #5: Off-the-shelf or custom design?

Tim Janisch by Tim Janisch

Leadership development dilemma #5: Off-the-shelf or custom design?

What degree of design are you looking to invest in?


Via five short articles, we’ll explore the choices at hand, when thinking about deploying leadership development support in the year ahead. Perhaps a factor that governs so many others, particularly in the current market, is cost. This last dilemma relates to the degree of investment to be made in leadership development.


Reading time:​ 1 minute


We are often asked whether we can do off-the-shelf sessions on certain topics. On the other hand, there are organisations who want us to understand their particular and current context, and design work that fits it.

Off-the-shelf design: This approach to helping deliver on strategy is to expose participants to new ideas, relying on proven content and activities to do the work. An off-the-shelf intervention might involve:​

  • Reducing cost by eliminating the up-front ‘discovery’ work.
  • Rapidly bringing participants together to deliver a specific learning topic that’s important now.
  • Delivering tried-and-tested courses or modules, along with ‘playlists’ of ready-to-use reading and videos.

Custom design: This approach to helping deliver on strategy takes participants from a current state to desired future state of thinking and acting. A custom-design approach might involve:​

  • Understanding the role for leaders to play, as well as what’s really getting in the way of more effective leadership.
  • Taking time to allow various stakeholder groups to feel heard, and in doing so allow them to begin their own development journey.
  • Creating self-awareness in participants – of current state, and their part to play – and building trust to challenge and support them over time.
  • Designing a programme architecture and style of learning that are effective and efficient in supporting organisational change.
  • Creating routes for applying learnings back in the workplace.

If you had to say which of these was your bigger focus in the year ahead, which would it be?

Do please share our thoughts and comments on our LinkedIn poll, here.

As always, we’re here to help. And if this is a choice you’re working through, we’d love to chat.


Tim Janisch

Director of Leadership and Team Development




Explore more leadership development dilemmas:

  • Leadership development dilemma #1: Individuality or consistency? – Read here
  • Leadership development dilemma #2: Broad reach or deeper impact? – Read here
  • Leadership development dilemma #3: Push content or remove barriers? – Read here
  • Leadership development dilemma #4: Human-facilitated or Tech-enabled learning? – Read here

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