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Who Develops the Developers?


Sixteen years ago the government sponsored a wide ranging survey to look at the development of developers. This report highlighted a quantative and qualitative gap in developers and provided developers with Continued Professional Development opportunities for several years. Nothing on this scale has been tried since. In this article Mike Morrison and Ken Ritchie explain why they feel the time is right to ask again “who develops the developers?”

The formula for sustained organisational success, private or public sector, in today’s global economy is simple:

Strategic Choice X Superb Execution = Success.

The correct decisions in repositioning the organisation x The disciplines to implement, keep experimenting, improvising and learning to keep getting things done better and quicker.

A key enabler to this success is firmly in the hands of the world of people development. This world is changing, changing at an ever increasing rate. How do we as developers and employers ensure that the skills and techniques we use are the best possible to meet the demands of the future?

There are many surveys about development, learning and training. Most of them tend to focus on the context in which training occurs or the ‘trends’ in development. Many like the annual CIPD Learning and Development survey, focus on trends and line manager as a developer. This looked at where responsibility sits and the extent to which coaching is used as a methodology. This is a great strategic tool. However, what is missing is a review of the development that is happening at the moment. What skills do developers have? What skills do they need?

What happened in the past?
In 1991 a survey funded by the Department of Employment undertook a major piece of research called Developing the Developers In the introduction to this report the authors said:
“As all political parties focus on the central role of education, training and development in the future of the UK. Would this stimulus cause an increase in demand for people competent to deliver effective development, that is "developers"?
By "developers" we mean all those people in roles responsible for the development of managers, management and organisations. Will there be an adequate supply of such people to meet what might be a growing demand?”

It went on to say:
“There were also some early signs that the client organisations for management and organisation development would be expecting different and possibly more sophisticated know-how in the future which might differ in substantial ways from current practices.”

This report highlighted a quantative as well as a qualitative gap in developers.

The outputs of this research provided developers with Continued Professional Development (CPD) opportunities for many years. The shelf life of much of this research is now outdated, nothing similar exists to replace it.

What is happening now?
A short piece of research on development opportunities available now indicates an HR preference towards CIPD membership, training delivery accreditations for both independent and in house trainers and coaching skills training, beyond that, there is a myriad of stand alone training courses covering a range of skills and techniques, this adhoc approach can lead to a lack balance in the capability in individual developers and development teams.

The changing face of development
We know from experience and from various professional (trade) reports the role of training has, and is changing. The role of the line manager is also changing in that increasingly they are expected to deliver more and more training and development activity.

In the past, much of the people development activity was undertaken by members of the ‘training team’. Now we have a range of specialist development personnel – trainers, coaches, change agents, career coaches, facilitators, talent management teams, business psychologists etc and of course the line manager.

Who are the developers?
Developers are those who develop others. They may be line managers, trainers, coaches, consultants, teachers, lecturers etc.

As times and trends change more and more emphasis is being placed on non-dedicated developers. The risk here is that without their appropriate development we may actually be reducing the effectiveness of our people without realising it.

As the number of people involved in the development of people widens, we are also witnessing the number of professional institutes and organisations supporting them, for example CIPD, ITOL, ILM, CMI, British Institute for Learning & Development, AMED, etc. which is great for setting and maintaining standards of competences of their respective members. But what about those who chose not to affiliate, especially the line manager where the criticality of their developer performance continues to grow in importance.

What are the skills required by developers?
As times and needs change so to the needs of developers. We have seen a shift towards e-learning and coaching over the past few years yet at the same time we are hearing increased scepticism about the effectiveness of development activity. Coaching is the current primary development activity – however how many people have had quality training in coaching – and what style? Research on the effectiveness of coaching shows that the jury is out. There is a great deal of trust about its effectiveness, but little evaluative evidence exists.

Development for developers is very adhoc. Many know of coaching, accelerated learning and NLP, the rest is just an open market of who can make their technique look as sexy and exciting as possible. Not a sustainable way to demonstrate to the senior managers of an organisation that we take growth seriously.

A solution
To investigate this situation the authors of Developing the Developers have re-engineered the original survey questionnaire and brought it up to date. Our goal is to have the most comprehensive survey of developers todate. This project is being treated as an ‘open source’ project, in that all findings will be available in the public domain through a series of free articles here on TrainingZone. For too long commercial organisations have asked us for our views and not shared the data or asked for payment.

As developers we want to know what are the current and future trends, how are developers developed.

The 2007 develop the developer survey had the aim of answering these questions. Supported by TrainingZone and the UK’s other leading training and learning publications and suppliers. The Develop the Developer survey is the largest independent survey of development.


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