Client Story: Duke Energy 2018-11-08T16:21:19-05:00
Enabling the Cross-Fertilization of Ideas Among Leaders
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Duke Energy

Duke Energy owns 58,200 megawatts of base-load and peak generation in the United States and 4,300 megawatts of electric generation in Latin America.

  • US $23 Billion in revenues

  • 29,000 employees

  • Serves over 7 million customers

The Challenge

Duke Energy, an electric power company with several different business divisions, needed to deal with increasingly volatile and different markets. As it looked to the future, the executive team saw the need to grow the leadership talent that existed within each business unit in a way that enabled each leader to be equally effective if promoted to a different business division. Each competitive and regulatory space of each business division was different from the others. So unless Duke Energy became more intent on equipping leaders to be successful, regardless of business division, the company’s ability to use organically grown leaders to fill emerging opportunities would be limited. The previous leadership development model impeded the company’s ability to move leaders between its divisions, which it needed to do to develop well-rounded and highly capable leaders for executive roles. At the time that Applied Learning was called in to partner with them, Duke Energy had only 3 people in its succession candidate pool for every top leadership position. Plus, the company was anticipating significant growth.  The company also suffered from a perception that it offered very limited opportunity for advancement; in a survey that included managers, 35% of employees said that they had seriously considered quitting their jobs in the last 6 months.

The Approach

Each Duke Energy leader had a wealth of knowledge about their particular business function within a business division, so rather than bringing in experts and simply having them lecture about popular management topics, Duke engaged us to carefully facilitate an exchange of knowledge among its leaders while at the same time developing their skills, competencies and critical thinking capabilities. The Knowledge Maps were structured to encourage collaboration and constructive conversation as much as possible, while still providing leaders with the foundational data needed to ground their ideas in facts. Another important outcome was the networking opportunities generated by the quality conversations between leaders. The effectiveness of any leader is determined by the quality of their peer network, and Applied Learning helped each participant heighten that effectiveness by guiding them through several experiential activities with a cohort of other leaders. By the end of the learning session, the quality conversations they had engaged in created stronger bonds within each cohort of leaders.


The Knowledge Maps were also designed to ensure that high-level strategies were examined in light oftheir real-world applications. For example, Duke Energy had variation across the positions of its employees, so that even one executive engineer working in one division might need very different skills than an executive engineer working in a different division. This made Duke Energy’s overall goal of standardization of leadership skills very difficult. Through the learning process, Duke Energy leaders were able to work through this tension and gain a better understanding of the diverse parts of their organization.


By the end of the leadership program, participants not only had shared their knowledge and thought about the practical applications of high-level strategy, but they had also all learned valuable general knowledge about the company. Among other things, the learning experience covered the changing nature of the energy market, the many different types of energy, their major competitors, the main stakeholders in the company, and talent management. In just one day, the Knowledge Map engagement experience was packed with useful activities that kept participants engaged and informed.

The Result

After the rollout of the leadership program, Duke Energy saw great results. First, after the learning experience, which included real-world data to ground their discussions, leaders across the various divisions embraced the new management development model. They also valued the opportunity to talk with functional and business division peers about business insights, and they discussed the real-world issues facing their business. These new insights and wider view of the business broadened their future management potential from just one business division to many. Finally, the participating leaders built a network of peers whose relationships were based on shared experiences and agreed-upon views of how they, the leaders, should influence the future of the business.

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