Purpose - To validate conceptual frameworks for strategic management development. Also, to test the hypothesis that the objectives and design of a strategic management development programme need to match the organisation's level of commitment to strategic management and the degree of maturity of its strategic management processes and competencies, in order that the programme can be effective in enhancing the strategic capability of the organisation. Design/methodology/approach - Earlier work by the author (based on literature review and one case study) had generated two conceptual models which could help in the understanding of strategic management development. One provides a life-cycle typology matching an organisation's level of commitment to strategic management with the design of an effective strategic management development programme. The second provides a causal network showing how strategic management capability may be developed. In this paper case study research is reported from six organisations to provide data, which are mainly qualitatative, to test the hypothesis and conceptual models. Findings - Both the life-cycle typology and the conceptual models are supported by the further case study work. It was also found that the dominant strategy-making mode in the organisation can influence the potential for strategic management development. Where the command mode of strategy making is dominant the strategic aspects of a management development programme are inhibited because this is not consistent with the command culture. Research limitations/implications - The generalisability of the findings is constrained by the small sample size of six organisations. However, given the paucity of theory in the field of strategic management development, the findings contribute to the conceptual understanding of this subject. Originality/value - The models proposed give insights into the complexities of strategic management development and can be used to inform analysis and planning of more effective strategic management development interventions.