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Dani Bacon

Distinction Business Consulting

Organisation Development Consultant

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Rethinking Management Development: Broadening our approach for 2024

Organisational development experts Dani Bacon and Garin Rouch provide three pivotal areas to re-evaluate and enrich management development strategies in 2024.
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As 2024 dawns, our attention naturally turns to this year’s management development initiatives. Organisations that do management well perform significantly better on high-level metrics such as productivity, profitability, growth, and longevity. And these differences persist over time. Competent management is not easy to replicate and should be treated as a crucial complement to strategy. Unsurprisingly, managers also have a deep impact on the people they manage, including their motivation, satisfaction, and likelihood of leaving their jobs.  CMI found that half of those who say their bosses are ineffective plan to quit within the next year. They also found that 82% of workers entering management positions have not had any formal management and leadership training and research by Wiley identified only 20% of managers feel equipped to manage their teams. 

Management development

When we think about management development the temptation is to scan the horizon for the next set of trends to emerge – and to this end, there’s a great piece of recent research that has identified 18 competencies required for the 21st century.  But research has also long exposed the 'Knowing-Doing Gap' – a persistent rift where conventional development falls short, failing to spark true behavioural transformation in our workplaces. 
Management development isn’t an end in itself.
It’s a concern that Gartner found echoed by HR Leaders in 2023 with only 23% believing their managerial training investments actually deliver.  This year presents an opportunity to re-evaluate and enrich our strategies, ensuring they are more aligned with the evolving needs of our organisations and the dynamic business landscape. Here are three pivotal areas to concentrate on, each offering significant potential to bridge the knowing-doing gap:

1. Take a whole systems approach

Embracing a 'whole systems approach' to management development, as advocated by new research from the University of Reading, involves stepping beyond traditional skill and knowledge sessions. This approach means fostering a culture where leadership growth is integrated into the daily fabric of the workplace. To implement this effectively, consider these key elements:

> Creating a Safe Organisational Learning Climate

Ensure that your managers feel confident applying new skills and knowledge without fear of negative consequences. A supportive environment is crucial for experimentation and learning from mistakes.

> Assessing Workload Manageability 

The average manager is overwhelmed with 51% more responsibilities than they can effectively handle. Addressing this imbalance can enhance manager effectiveness by as much as 21%. Evaluate and adjust the workload of your managers to make it more manageable, enabling them to focus on applying their new skills effectively.

> Refining Processes and Systems

Scrutinise your organisation's broader people-related processes. Do they support and encourage the behavioural changes you want to see in your managers? Streamlining these processes can facilitate more effective management practices.

> Strengthening Line Manager Support

It's vital that managers receive effective backing from their own line managers. This includes integrating management development activities into personal development plans, setting specific objectives related to these activities, and engaging in regular discussions to track progress with development activity. Such support should also involve providing feedback on observed changes to boost motivation and facilitate the transfer of learning into practical application.

2. Involve your senior leaders

Management development isn’t an end in itself. It's not merely about enrichment but about equipping managers to deliver results that align with your organisation's strategic goals and meet the expectations of customers, investors, and employees.  While senior leaders often green-light management development programs and budgets, their deeper involvement in shaping these initiatives is less frequent but incredibly impactful McKinsey’s research supports this, showing a correlation between active senior leader participation and the alignment of development efforts with immediate business goals, enhancing overall business performance. To truly leverage this impact, it's essential to integrate senior leaders more actively in the development process. This could take various forms:
  • Design Contribution: Engage senior leaders in designing the curriculum, ensuring it reflects real-world challenges and the strategic direction of the organisation.
  • Sharing Experiences and Insights: Persuade senior leaders to participate in sessions, not just as sponsors but as contributors, sharing their personal leadership journeys and insights. This can provide invaluable real-life context to the learning experience.
  • Mentorship and Guidance: Establish a mentorship programme where senior leaders guide emerging leaders. This fosters a culture of continuous learning and knowledge transfer, aligning leadership development with long-term organisational goals

 3. Streamline support for new leadership transitions

Transitioning to a new management role is a significant challenge. Data shows that nearly half of externally hired managers and over a third of those promoted internally do not meet performance expectations in the first 12 to 18 months in the role. To address this, focus your management development efforts on robust support and a comprehensive onboarding process for new managers. 
  • Clear Role Definition and Onboarding: It’s crucial to clearly define what being a manager means in your specific organisational and team context, as understanding can vary widely. Enhance the onboarding process to ensure new managers thoroughly grasp their roles and responsibilities and what management means in your context
  • Expectation Setting and Regular Reviews: Facilitate expectation-setting conversations between the new manager and their line manager, focusing not only on performance goals and deliverables but also on communication and work style preferences. Regular review sessions are vital not only for providing feedback to the new manager but also for allowing them to share their views on their work, team, and the organisation. These sessions help new managers understand and navigate the organisational landscape.
  • Building Relationships with Key Stakeholders: Management is intrinsically about relationships. Actively assist new managers in connecting with key internal and external stakeholders. Introducing them to important contacts and helping to build these relationships can be instrumental in their success.

Final word

As we conclude, the start of a new year brings an opportunity to adopt a more sophisticated approach to management development. This year presents an opportunity to bridge the knowing-doing gap and cultivate an organisational culture that champions continuous and practical learning, leading to tangible growth. To embark on this transformative journey, consider these three next steps:
  1. Assess your current management development approaches and look for opportunities to integrate more holistic methods, focusing on real-world application and behavioural change, not just theoretical knowledge.
  2. Put special emphasis on supporting managers transitioning into new roles. This includes providing clear role definitions, effective onboarding, ongoing mentorship, and relationship-building opportunities.
  3. Cultivate a learning environment that extends beyond formal training sessions. Promote practices that allow for continuous feedback, reflection, and adaptation, ensuring that learning is an ongoing journey rather than a destination.

Interested in this topic? Read Why communicating your OD ideas is the fastest way to engagement

Author Profile Picture
Dani Bacon

Organisation Development Consultant

Read more from Dani Bacon

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