The idea that ever person on earth is unique – is surprisingly new in a management context. It also seems that some organisations are used to rolling out the same old programmes as all of their competitors, year after year, to educate their future managers. This realisation is challenging organisations to rethink how they are approaching customised education.
Before Crick and Watson discovered DNA – the world was convinced that we are all exactly the same. It turns out that there are so many combinations of genetics that we are all literally unique. The second uniqueness factor is that even if you had exactly the same DNA as another person, that you would have a different life experience to every other person on the planet. Management was borne out of the idea that processes can be controlled and lead to outcomes that are quantifiable and predictable. The one element that needs to be predictable for management to work is the contribution or output of the individual.
The theory is quite basic – you set a goal, and the individual is expected to perform to this goal. If the progress towards the goal is over or under the target levels – you coach, support and otherwise inspire the individual to achieve the goal or you find an alternative way to achieve the same goal.
Some organisations realise that the achievement of these ever growing goals are highly influenced by the level of support and training given to an individual. Training and development is a proven way to increase performance. An increasing number of studies showing that management attention, training and development and clear direction either inspired by goal or value based systems form the basis for effective organisational performance. Individual performance is driven by value and goal congruence, competence and intrinsic and extrinsic reward systems.
It is then natural that all organisations should pay attention to how they are developing their staff. Organisations will typically establish supervisory, middle and senior and executive development programmes designed achieved these staff development objectives.
Companies are increasingly realising that employees are not one size fits all – and that where they are, maybe they should not be. Emerging trends focus more on innovation, creativity and effective risk taking in an increasingly regulated environment. It is clear that the standard development agenda is not producing tomorrow’s leaders and companies are asking what is wrong with the standard approaches to the leadership development approaches they have been following. While there is a discernable return on investment in all training, this return is not always what was expected.
In tougher economic conditions with increasing pressures to deliver more with less, there has been a resurgence of the need to find the best people. The best people are those that will drive innovation in the organisation and deliver exponentially more through the employment of new and innovative approaches to business challenges.
At the height of the business process revolution we all believed that we could just get one more of “those” people. The whole idea that one more person that does exactly what others does – will make the difference – seemed to be the best way to grow organisations. It may then indicate that some people are more suited to deliver a particular flavour of results, innovation or development in a business and that it is the task of the organisation to employ people in a specific direction and make the business work around them. Management is also not premised on the fact that some people have the information and others do not – so education must be accessible within an organisation – using the advantage of technology as far as possible.
The very notion that organisations need to be built around individuals would seem heretical and could cause the average staid executive a heart attack. It cannot however be denied that certain organisations have done this and achieved great results. If Steve Jobs just ignored the talents of Sir Jony Ive, and took an attitude that said – we can get another one of these people anywhere in the world – it could arguably be said would not be using tablets and Apple would not be have a market capitalisation of $ 400 bn. It however required a lot of interaction, working together and finding ways to support the development and genius of one person to make that work.
While it may be interesting to look at the potential of supporting an individual – we also have to look at how we build the performance of the overall organisation.
Many times management development has been seen as a short course in how to dismiss and performance manage people, together with some training on how to report to your line manager. These get done in a rush on a Wednesday afternoon because management cannot be taken away from managing staff. The management development programme is also seen as the passport to advancement and in some organisations it is an elitist badge that gets worn by the few who are going to be “higher-ups” soon. Very few management development programmes look at holistically supporting the manager to make complex decisions, support and nurture staff, inspire vision and creativity and build the organisation and deal with practical issues of organisational development – while still supporting functional skills such as HR, finance, project management and quality management.
Some Executive development programmes are even more limited with managers expected to have acquired skills through years of experience or through expensive international learning programmes through perceived top institutes. The challenge is that they learnt how organisations get managed more effectively but not necessarily in this particular industry, or using techniques that would be relevant to this market – or that encapsulates learning from this particular business model.
Executive education should support the strategy of the organisation. In an ideal world executive education should be seen as a continuous learning system that supports the organisation to achieve its strategic objectives through supplying adequate top performing managers to achieve a competitive advantage.
A popular approach is the leadership pipeline that is seen as a “building block” approach to executive development. The basic idea is that a pyramid of skills is acquired initially as a junior manager, then a middle manager and then as senior manager. These are systematically delivered and high potentials moved to the next level. Another approach is the “strategy focused” approach which designs a new programme around the most critical issue or issues that are facing the company within the current period (usually a year) and to roll this out widely in order to support the achievement of specific objectives – possibly at different levels within an organisation. Another approach is that courses are developed and centralised for easy deployment and people take it on themselves to consume the material and that the right “tracks” activate further development opportunities. Companies that are taking it seriously are establishing subcommittees of their board to drive executive education and everyone agrees that top management must use education as a mechanism to communicate to the organisation.
Increasingly organisations are changing the approach to staff development to enhance its contribution to the bottom line. Best practice currently indicates that management development is achieved through
- Regular development of staff through structured programmes that are customised to the specific operating environment of the specific organisation.
- Regular review of customised programmes to ensure they are aligned to the current goals of the organisation – in as far as possible by senior management within the organisation.
- Designing various levels of articulation and progression from one level in the organisation to the next and using training as a means to support this.
- Capturing practical approaches to real world problems in training to aid members in the organisation to deal with practical approaches.
- Capturing of feedback from training as a strategic input into the organisation.
- Integrating training, learning and new ideas into daily operational activities.
- Having flexible frameworks that covers the curriculum required but that can also take into consideration of individual or group needs that are not standard.
- Supporting training through repeatable simulations, coaching and executive mentorship approaches.
- Sourcing and documenting internal case studies that teach operating methods and that codifies internal learning.
- As far as possible, executive and management development programmes should be available to all staff.
- Being able to link these, where relevant, to people achieving actual qualifications.
Regenesys has been very active in this type of education with organisations constantly requesting executive education and custom programmes to achieve specific organisational objectives. This together with effective monitoring and evaluation forms the basis strong partnerships between a business school and an organisation that wants to create excellence through training and development.
Executive and management development is a critical dimension in the modern organisation to achieve top performance in a demanding marketplace. Just as even organisation is unique, so is every individual. Many organisations are suffering from staid approaches to training and development that limit people and the organisation from achieving their full potential. New approaches are necessary that take into consideration the strategic objectives of the organisation and that supports this with inspiration, innovation and new approaches to learning that enhances individual and group performance in a two-way organisational conversation.