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Planning and Organizing Personal and Professional Development – Book Review


Planning and Organizing Personal and Professional Development
by Chris Sangster

Publisher: Gower
Date: 2000
ISBN: 0566 08264 0
Price: £42.50
Format: Hardback 192 Pages

Billed as a practical, step-by-step guide to personal and professional development, this book uses a triangle of the roles of learner, manager/mentor and development support function (referred to as DSF) to map out in great detail a route for CPD (continuous professional development).

The book uses the analogy of a journey, with numerous milestones, to take the reader through explorations of: the difference between personal and professional and, ultimately, how to go holistic; creating a holistic team of those involved; objective setting, planning and monitoring; matching developmental options to needs; and the importance of recording CPD achievements.

It is an extremely thorough book, with numerous lists in three formats : Route Reviews where you score yourself and/or your organisation; Health Checks where you see how many aspects you can tick; and general lists for specific topics within the text. There are also many examples, plus some Time Out boxes that suggest you stop and think or do your own list!

The thoroughness of the book will be very reassuring to anyone considering implementing such an approach within an organization. There are also significant points that gain impact through the ways they are presented: empowering people to fly solo means they may plough into trees (p.4); a rubber band over 2 fingers and thumb will illustrate the dynamic nature and ongoing connection between the 3 points of the triangle (p.39); there is the notion of the ‘tall poppy’ that gets cut down to the size of the others (p.46); and letting someone know of your route means they can rescue you if you get lost (p.72).

However, this reviewer found the milestones distracting. There are 153 of these within the 174 pages and many of them are further sub-divided. This number of headings may help you find a specific point but they break up the text so much that it’s hard to read the book.

For those interested in mentoring/coaching definitions, the author suggests teaching a neighbour to use a strimmer as an example of mentoring – in spite of also proposing that this process is about mind/body/spirit.

I quibble with the part on objective setting. The emphasis on cognitive objectives, with brief mention only of affective, seems to me to miss the point that much development involves change at an emotional level. The example given later related to kitchen hygiene demonstrates this – by setting only cognitive (and psychomotor) outcomes you may ensure they know what to do but you don’t address the issue of motivating them to do it without constant monitoring.

Also, an instance of four individuals each contributing different existing strengths to a presentation is not an example of good development practice; insisting that mentors do not teach tips and short-cuts to beginners tells me that the author is only aware of one learning style (Reflector! – see Peter Honey Manual of Learning Styles, Peter Honey Pubs 1986). And one person continually coming to the rescue of others (p.91) is similarly not a positive outcome of development.

Another concern is whether the author practices what he preaches. In spite of emphasising a holistic approach and quoting “ … change your own beliefs about the nature of life, people, reality to something more positive …” (Shakti Gawain, Creature Visualization, Whatever Publishing inc., 1978), he makes comments himself such as “… these rather stupid end-objectives (said of fire walking activities, which have in fact helped many to break free of limiting beliefs and for which he inaccurately claims cases of hospitalisation) (p.84) “ … any temporary motivational benefits killed off by “shareholder-driven re-engineering and cost-cutting”, (p.120); and “…there’s a lot of fat-cat, self-centred around …” (p.172).

He also quotes Eileen Caddy, The Dawn of Change, Findhorn Press, 1993, as “… Cease trying too hard …”(p.154)
but then regularly invites the reader to “… try to…” (pp. 32, 54, 68, 92, 115 to mention just a few).

And it is a pity that the author keeps reminding us how hard all this will be and how long each aspect will take – a little knowledge of language patterns tells us that we create self-fulfilling prophecies with our words. When you read the book, I suggest you tune out the try hards – the content is so comprehensive that you should easily be able to do things effectively and first time!

Reviewed by Julie Hay, Chief Executive of training consultancy A.D. International
email [email protected].

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