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The Way I See It… Mapping the Way for Management Development


Simon Court, CEO of change management specialist Value Partnership, looks at the importance of having a roadmap to develop managers.

Recent opinion pieces on TrainingZONE have reminded us that management and leadership development is only likely to add value if it sets out to respond to business needs. Critically, it needs delivers change in management behaviour that boosts organisational performance.

But evidence still points to the fact that management development programmes are still failing to respond – or there is no way of knowing if they are adding value. Our own research showed that in a large number of organisations the relationship between actual management capability and business performance was simply overlooked, misunderstood or managed ineffectively. Only 16 % of the 433 survey respondents from UK companies believed that their organisations were effective at developing business plans that specified the management capabilities required.

The missing factors
So just what is missing from the way that management development is planned, that makes this connection with business needs so tenuous? Here are our conclusions, based on our own research and work with large organisations.

Firstly there is no point in offering training and development to managers unless it is contributing to a broader strategy for the management of the business.

Secondly, someone on the senior management team needs to be responsible for this broader management strategy and the roadmap for change designed to make it real.

This roadmap is critical and is likely to include engagement of key stakeholders, role clarification, performance indicators, organisation structures, re-engineering of business and individual performance reviews, recruitment and of course training and development.

We are regularly called in to help organisations to boost management capability, but when we dig a little deeper, we find that while the management team has good intentions and the organisation is committed to investing in their development, there is no roadmap for change. Or if there is one, it is too narrow in its scope and so risks failing to deliver the desired results.

Management development specialists who are lacking such a roadmap, working in organisations where there is no one in senior management who has responsibility for the quality and performance of management, will very often find themselves in a vacuum. Here interventions will be haphazard and mostly disconnected from the real needs of the business.

Those with responsibility for management development need to be influencing the roadmap and need work out how they can contribute to its implementation. Is there a plan that makes clear what results and outcomes the training and development intervention should achieve? Are the resources available to make it possible? Will it be possible to review and assess to what extent these results have actually been achieved?

If the answer to any of these questions is “no” then the training and development intervention should almost certainly be postponed.

Good practice
It is quality of management that makes the difference between a business that looks good on paper and one that consistently creates value. Senior line managers and those with training and development responsibility must understand and discuss the connections between the business plan and management’s capability to deliver it. And then they must act on this understanding.

Good practice starts with making the case for why management is the key driver of performance. It also involves clarifying the business purpose for developing managers in the organisation and then breaking down barriers to progress such as political in-fighting or short-term thinking.

Ad-hoc programmes and week-long residential courses are not the solution. By themselves, these one-off initiatives do nothing to improve the quality of management. Understanding how business creates value, developing a roadmap for change and then developing the management capability to deliver it is the challenge that matters for HR and development professionals and their colleagues on the board. This is the only way to respond to competitive pressure and to develop a truly sustainable business.

When it comes to valuing a business, the financial markets include an “X Factor” to take account of the perceived quality of its management. A company’s financial position, the value of its assets and the strength of its brand can all be analysed. But the thing that holds them all together is the quality of management.


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