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by Charlene Marmer Solomon | March 31, 2009


Most companies offer their premium training programs to the top brass. But Molex, Inc. - a global firm of 15,000 employees that manufactures plugs and jacks for electronic equipment - offers a million-dollar "mini MBA" program aimed at young managers labeled high-potentials. Started in 1980, the Management Training Program (MTP) allows 50 up-and-comers from around the world to meet at Molex headquarters in Lisle, Illinois for five one-week training modules throughout the year. The students, who must be proficient in English, are nominated by at least two regional senior-level supervisors, and must have earned "exceeds expectation" performance ratings for two years of their service.

"The overall objective of the class is to bring people together who normally would not work together in an intensive, educational environment," says Malou Roth, Vice President of Human Resources, Training, and Development. "The MTP was created not as a functional meeting focused on problem-solving, but as a college course where people learn background, broaden their viewpoints, and work with individuals from different functional areas to gain an understanding about other functions." Since the products they make are identical - whether they come from Germany, Malaysia or Japan - what they learn from the others can be directly applied when they return home.

Each week-long module is taught by a professor from such universities as Harvard, MIT, and Northwestern. They devote each week to one of four tracks: human resources, marketing, finance, and manufacturing. Typical topics are "Marketing Management" and "Measuring and Managing the Cost of Doing Business." In addition, Molex senior managers give a real-world edge to the program with their own presentations.

The students are divided into 10 small groups, each peppered with students representing different functions and nationalities. The groups are rearranged each session, allowing participants to work with each other at least once. By the end of the course students have access to a tight, global network of newly acquainted colleagues they can contact when they need help.

Using the Harvard case-study approach, students work on three to four case studies per day. They receive their first case studies to review weeks before they enter the class. Then, each day is spent in combination between lectures by the professor, working in small groups to come up with answers to the scenarios or working through case problems with the class as a whole.

One scenario deals with a manufacturing firm in chaos that has hired a new national sales manager. Sales are plummeting. In one session, the groups recommended that the manager fire disgruntled employees even if that would decimate the sales force. The professor revealed this to be an ill-conceived, hasty decision and facilitated the students' discussion and contemplation of the end results of their plan. They discovered that they needed another approach. At the end of each discussion period, the actual outcome of a case is revealed (the Harvard method uses actual cases), which provides more learning material.

"The course also provides the opportunity for extended contact with our top management," says Roth. "And, as a result at the end of these courses, we see a seasoned, mature respect and understanding in everyday dealings and attitudes towards colleagues."

How does Molex measure the success of this expensive endeavor? Attitude and change. Says Roth, "The minute you get people out of their silos and they begin to understand how their function is interrelated with others and what the others are trying to accomplish, all the barriers come down." Ultimately, Molex brings together its far-flung players so that after a few weeks together they can return home with what they've learned to improve the global team.


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