No Image Available


Read more from TrainingZone

googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display(‘div-gpt-ad-1705321608055-0’); });

Feature: Management Development – What’s the Need?


Joe España Managing Director, Performance Equations Ltd, explains how to plan management development that aligns to the businesses strategic needs.

HRD professionals generally agree that management and leadership development is crucial to the delivery of business strategy. However, the measurable impact of this development is at best tentatively linked to strategic organisational performance, and at worst an act of faith. Much time, money and effort is wasted on management and leadership development because insufficient work is done beforehand to ensure that the intervention is strategically aligned.

A more systematic and rigorous approach is needed to determine both what development is required and how it will positively impact strategic business performance. However, even in those cases where these questions are addressed, a review of the operational and organisational context that will allow the newly learned behaviours to be applied real-time in the workplace is often lacking. This context can also make a significant difference to the support given to the chosen development method itself.

Development professionals need a framework to help make the crucial link to business strategy by building hooks between development, organisational, and individual performance. To be strategically effective and aligned with its organisational context there are three essential elements that should inform management and leadership development. Organisational performance can be described as an equation: Performance = f(C x C x C), where performance can be seen as a function of competence multiplied by commitment multiplied the cultural context of the organisation. Managerial and leadership performance that make a substantive contribution to strategic goals can only truly exist when an individual with the ability and desire to perform in a particular way is working within an organisational culture that actually allows them to do so.

Performance outcomes
Assuming the business strategy is clearly understood, it is essential to the successful development process that the performance outcomes that need to be affected are also clearly defined. Organisations may be good at providing long lists of the knowledge, skills and competencies required of their managerial communities: these are in themselves inputs to performance. Yet it is the performance outcomes that should be the key focus for development. Often, organisations do not readily have available definitions of the specific performance outcomes required to impact strategic goals. Additionally a clear, complete and mutual understanding of how these performance outcomes will impact a company’s strategic ambitions is often scarce. Without these two elements, it is difficult to know what the measurable contribution of development will actually be.

Target audience
Unless the current capabilities and characteristics of each of the managers to be developed are understood, there is a risk that invalid assumptions about them may be made. Determining individual competence by itself is not enough. Assessing motivation and commitment to perform as required is also important. Having skills is no guarantee that they will be willingly applied.

Organisational context
Consideration of the organisational context of a business is key to any management and leadership development. By context I mean the environment, the organisational culture and climate in which both the development and, more importantly, the performance will need to happen. When thinking “context”, think too of the extent to which the workplace environment is supportive of the chosen learning process, and the extent to which it encourages people to actually perform in the way that has been defined.

Take, for example, the CEO who is adamant that greater creativity is needed in the way managers approach the market and manage the business generally. While the management community itself agrees that what their senior leader insists is a key strategic performance requirement is indeed a rational judgement of the organisation’s business needs, it also well remembers how the last time anyone expressed a new idea or approach it was nipped in the bud by the very person calling for innovative thinking. It is therefore thought highly unlikely that anyone will demonstrate discretionary creativity or propose new business strategies.

Consideration of the dynamic that exists between the required performance outcome, the target development community and the organisational context leads to two fundamental questions that must be asked before any development is undertaken: Can this person perform this way here? To what extent will this place allow this person to perform as required?

All too often our thinking about management and leadership development is limited to a very few means of developing people, falling into ‘flavour of the month’ categories or preferred ways of doing things. This is to not rubbish any particular development processes, but recommend that the wide range of alternatives be considered, in order to find that which is most likely to effectively achieve the declared performance objectives, in the manner most congruent with – and so, most likely to be accepted by – the particular set of managers.

Failure to adopt this systematic approach often ends in programmes that are faddy, unwanted, or that don't deliver the performance improvement that was originally sought.

This approach to management and leadership development, of course, raises several questions for those ultimately accountable for the strategic performance and for sponsoring the development - likewise for those responsible for the provision of management and leadership development within organisations:
* Is there clarity about the performance that your organisation’s business strategy demands?
* How much does the target population know / understand the performance expected of them? How well are they currently performing against the standards that have been set?
* Do you believe that your people are capable of and committed to performing in the manner and to the standards that your organisation requires?
* What activities and processes are used for MLD in your organisation? Do particular methods predominate? Is there a sound logic for using any particular method (as opposed to fad or personal preference)?
* Does the environment and workplace context in your organisation enable people to perform as needed? Does it encourage experimentation and risk-taking during the process of learning in the workplace?
* Are the benefits of investing in MLD activities clearly defined and measured in your organisation before starting?
* Do you evaluate the performance changes that have occurred as a result of your investment in MLD?
* To what extent is your organisation’s investment in MLD contributing to an organisational environment that directly contributes to your company’s strategic ambitions?
* Who is held accountable for development in your organisation and how complete is their thinking about the links between development activity and strategic business performance?


Get the latest from TrainingZone.

Elevate your L&D expertise by subscribing to TrainingZone’s newsletter! Get curated insights, premium reports, and event updates from industry leaders.


Thank you!