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Feature: Speaking their Language


Simon Court, Chief Executive of Value Partnership, looks at how a business, organisation and management review (BOMR) can be used to address the development needs of senior managers within an organisation.

Senior managers are still not involved in implementing management development policies. In January, the Chartered Management Institute published a report showing that senior managers were involved in implementing management development policies in less than one in four organisations surveyed. This is despite more than three-quarters of senior managers seeing ‘integrating management development with the implementation of organisational goals’ as the key priority for their organisations, according to a joint survey by Value Partnership and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in 2002. This research also revealed that less than one in six business plans included management capability development objectives.

This means that those individuals responsible for management development are working in businesses where senior managers have given little thought to the management capabilities their business require in order to tackle challenges, such as the need to reduce costs, develop new products or improve customer service.

Most management development managers have recognised that this behaviour by senior managers indicates that they have an important learning need. What keeps management development managers from doing anything to respond is:
a) a lack of knowledge about what to do and how; and
b) a lack of courage to initiate something radically new.

How do training professionals help senior managers to learn how to think about the management capabilities their business needs, and to expect management development to contribute?

We all know that it mustn’t look like training – so please no classrooms and no instruction. It must be business-focused, and obviously linked with their responsibilities. And it must be something that a senior manager would expect a management development manager to initiate.

A Business, Organisation and Management Review (BOMR) is a process that is designed to develop senior managers’ understanding and commitment by:
* engaging them and the management development manager in a discussion about what the business will have to do and achieve if it is to meet its performance goals;
* enabling them and the management development manager to explore the threats and risks to these business results, how and where the competence and behaviour of managers could help or hinder their achievement, and where change in management capability is needed;
* using the results of these discussions to involve them in ascertaining the management development priorities and objectives for their business, and their part of the business.

A BOMR can significantly improve the contribution of management development to business performance. But that is not it’s only benefit. It can also give management development managers a road map of how business strategy can be achieved through developing the capabilities of the organisation and its people. Here’s an example from one of our clients in the telecoms industry. In this company, it was clear to almost everybody that customer service needed to be improved. The management development manager had been asked by the directors to create a development programme for middle managers that would assist them to become more ‘customer-focused’. But the management development manager wasn’t convinced that this was all that was needed. So he initiated a BOMR which revealed:
a) the company didn’t have a co-ordinated and business-wide customer service improvement plan; and
b) the executive team operated in a way that made it unlikely that such a plan would be created.

He fed back the results from the BOMR to executive management. And the result, to cut a long story short, was that the directors decided it was they who had development needs, not just middle managers. These directors and senior managers learnt that to become more customer-focused requires change on a number of fronts - in IT systems and business processes, in people's responsibilities and their capabilities, and that they needed to develop and implement an integrated plan for change that covers all of this, not just training & development for middle managers.

Along the way, the management development manager – and his colleagues in senior management – also discovered some important learning needs for front-line managers, and for the HR function, if customer service was to be improved.

Seven steps
There are seven simple steps to setting up a BOMR:
* Get the approval of the CEO and the HR director since both are likely to be affected by the results.
* Establish a timetable for gathering information and for feeding it back.
* Gather information on business performance and issues facing the business, from strategy documents, financial and annual reports, internal reports.
* Create a framework to use in discussions with senior managers, and test that it will be seen as business-focused by them.
* Decide which senior people to meet for a discussion and ask for a meeting
* Keep the paperwork to a minimum.
* Remember that this is a learning experience for all parties and that most learning will come through dialogue and debate.

The BOMR is a vehicle for engagement and learning that provides information to use in implementing management development policies and designing programmes. Remember that repeated practice develops skill – after undertaking a BOMR for two to three years, your senior managers will be much more able to engage with you in deciding what management development will really add most value to your business. And that can only be good news for management development managers.


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