Oxford Saïd Business School and Meridian West have published the first in our series of research papers aimed at those holding senior leadership positions in professional firms such as Senior and Managing Partners, Practice Group leaders, Heads of Learning and Development (L&D) and HR. Our papers seek to answer some of the most important strategic questions on the agenda for professional firms.

In this paper, which is now available to download, we explore how a Learning & Development (L&D) function and its activities can help the firm’s leadership to future-proof the firm and to enhance a firm’s ability to deliver its business strategy and brand promise.

As mentioned in our launch paper framing the series, the approach we will take in each paper will be to provide insight through the ‘voices’ of leaders in professional service firms ranging from Managing Partners to Heads of L&D and clients of firms. We will also include in each paper some ‘Faculty insights’ to give additional insight – or to pose important questions – which firms can consider as they plan forwards in the current challenging market environment.

We also raise some questions as provocations and a ‘call to action’ in the papers – and our initial provocation in this paper is at a quite fundamental level. To effectively design one’s ‘firm of the future’ makes a core assumption: namely that the leaders of firms are able to spend sufficient time planning for the long-term. But is this true, or is the increasing pace of change and the greater complexity of macro issues leading to Board-level agendas being focused on shorter-term challenges, often linked to processes and approaches of the present, the ‘known’?

If this is where firms are spending time, rather than grappling with the ambiguities which will enable them to project further ahead, an important question for this series is how L&D can assist the firm’s leadership in shifting the balance of this focus: moving instead towards the more distant horizon which the firm needs to be scanning and comprehending.

Further papers in the series will be published over the coming months:

  • Paper 2: Leading strategic change
  • Paper 3: Early career pathways
  • Paper 4: Career pathways for senior leaders


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