More than manager development
The term management development embraces both what the
CBI calls 'organisational management development' as well as individual
manager development. The distinction is valuable where
the development activity is driven by the organisation's needs
as a whole, or is expected to realise a explicit benefit at the
organisational level and not simply for the individual and his/her career, marketability or own job.
The narrower form of development activity - manager development
- takes individuals as the focus. This is generally the case with
institutional providers. But it also happens by default inside
many organisations which have control over their own provision. But this approach does not have to be the sole option.
The wider form of development activity - more accurately labelled
management development - can set out to address the organisation
management system as the 'client'. This alternative focus is less
common for a variety of reasons, some of which have to do with
leadership and preserving the status quo for the organisation.
But in practical terms many providers (inside and outside) have
access only to individuals: they don't have their hands on the
change agenda or on any of the other levers. Nor may
they be interested or skilled at this level. Where there is little
connection with a particular organisation and its journey, the
development approach inevitably becomes generic and individual
focused. The familiar learning transfer difficulties ensue, and
little change happens - either for the individual or the organisation.
But if management development is conceived differently, it has
the potential to improve the way the organisation is managed.
This is a different purpose and a different outcome for management
development. The organisation's performance becomes the target,
not the individual manager's ability. This simple but fundamental
shift of mindset opens up possibilities of other links, levers
and change interventions. This shift of viewpoint then embraces
more than the development of individuals. It recognises that the
sum of individual development cannot alone deliver organisational
improvement, because there are further ingredients that only the
organisation can and must provide:
- purpose and vision
- an agenda comprising the business's current problems and
These variables provide meaningful content and context
for manager development if it is to be targeted and synergistic.
But it goes further than that. Not only is the organisation seen
as the beneficiary: these organisation variables become legitimate
inputs in an integrated approach and worthy targets for development
themselves. Management development and organisation development
are then no longer compartmentalised, but can blend appropriately.
The Prometheus approach believes that organisations too often
place excessive faith in individuals to achieve change for the
organisation. But not all management shortcomings are caused by
a lack of development, or are best solved by development - particularly
if undertaken as a stand-alone activity. The point is that a search for excellence in management and leadership
is more than a search for development solutions.
To take an example, the well-publicised failure by the then UK's Department
of Trade and Industry (DTI) to pay its bills on time in accordance
with its own guidelines to all government departments is a management
systems failure. This is not well understood. The minister's
and chief civil servants' exhortation aimed at individual DTI
managers telling them to pay the bills on time reinforces this basic misunderstanding about the nature
of 'management' and its performance as opposed to that of individual
managers. It assumes that the sum of what managers do equals management.
This flawed way of thinking can lead to people confusing management
development with manager development. It may lead to
managers receiving generic training devoid of context. All told,
it fails to bring a systems-wide solution to bear on management
problems, by which several remedial levers may be pulled holistically
in the same direction at once.
Another benefit of redefining organisation-focused management
development is that it enables one to break down the demarcation
that frequently exists between HR specialisms in larger organisations
- between those responsible for recruiting and exiting talent,
for example, compared with those who develop it (as well as those
who terminate it!). It opens the door for management development
activity and professionals to contribute at a number of points
along the employment spectrum, rather than be pigeonholed in a
box closely associated with individual training and learning.
Without such breadth of involvement, management development will
lack synergy, be sub-optimal and may be undermined by HR action
elsewhere on the employment spectrum.
The inclusion of exiting as part of redefined management
development may seem perverse. But, as cases of negligence in
NHS surgery and pathology remind us, the profession may be enhanced
by acting with more resolve on the matter of exiting!
The development of a profession and of management is not synonymous
with the development of individuals who work in it. Incompetence
aside, excelling at the latter can never deliver the former. Ultimately,
the development of individuals is thus a mix of both generic development
of personal competence at both a foundation and advanced level,
but it is also one element in a wider programme of organisational
change and improvement. This fresh perspective challenges one
class of management development. It does not reject the legitimacy
of individual manager development of threshold personal competencies
in the right context.
This subject is discussed fully in chapter 6 of The Search for Leadership: An Organisational Perspective. (Triarchy Press, 2009)
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