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‘Management development’ is dead – long live management development!

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Paul Kearns, Evaluation expert and author of “Maximising your ROI in Training”, calls for closer attention to measurable managerial effectiveness.


The term ‘management development’ has now become so widely accepted, so commonplace, that it has lost much of its meaning. Yet in practice, despite all the effort that has gone into the Management Charter Initiative and the competence school of management development, there are still no absolute, managerial standards that have achieved widespread recognition. There is no qualification that confers the status of ‘professional management developer’ and no guarantees offered by those who work in the field.

At the same time many, so-called ‘professionals’ seem to think that any practice is acceptable practice; whether it be fire-walking, horse-whispering or 360° feedback. And all of this against a backdrop of serious questions being asked about corporate governance, modern business accounting methods being undermined by a series of financial reporting scandals and short-termism probably more rampant in the stock and financial markets than ever before. Whatever management development was supposed to have achieved over the past 20 years the evidence of its worth is conspicuous by its absence. Management development is dead.

Yet walk into any organisation and ask about management development ‘activity’ and you will still be shown lists of managerial competencies, catalogues of management training courses and state-of-the-art e-learning modules. The big question though is has any of this activity actually improved managerial effectiveness? Unfortunately no one knows because no one tries to make any connection between management development and business performance improvement. Do teams work better as a result of the team leadership programme? Do managers listen to their staff more and, even if they do, does it improve their results? Are managers better organised now than they were 20 years ago? Did they ever become better at planning and project management?

These were the issues highlighted a long time ago and they are still the developmental issues of today. The only difference now is that the organisations these managers work for today are under much more pressure than they ever were. Consequently the need for effective management development is greater now than it has ever been.

So let us stop using the term management development. Instead, those who want to improve managerial competence ought to be focusing on managerial effectiveness. Let us start by asking our own business leaders what constitutes ‘effectiveness’ and how they want to measure it.

Let us get management development happening as an integral part of the way the organisation operates. Not a 3 day course or a twice yearly appraisal. Management development should have a great future but only if we are prepared to start learning some of the obvious lessons from the past.


If you are interested in evaluating training and development, find out more about EvaluationZone.

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