Defining management development HR Management

  • What is management?

The nature of management and the work that managers do was explored in detail in Chapter. In that chapter, an argument was made that managers have to deal with the ambiguities and complexities that arise from tensions in the employment relationship, the different aims and interests that reside in organisations and the varying interpretations of managerial roles and what they represent.

It would appear reasonable to contend, therefore, that management development approaches should seek to accommodate the functional complexities of the managerial role and the diverse needs of those individuals who occupy those roles. For instance, different people, at different times, have different conceptions of what ‘management’ is about. This will shape individual views about the development of managers and this, in turn, may give rise to a number of tensions and contradictions which themselves have to be managed (Watson, 1994, 2002).

Logically, if development activity is to be effective, it has to be pragmatic in its approach and implemented within what manager consider is their unique organizational context. It has to help them adapt and cope with the diversity and complexity that resides therein and meet their specific needs (Hales, 1993). In other words, any investment in development has to be congruent with the ‘reality’ of what managers do, and not (however well intentioned) be rooted in abstract or increasingly redundant model of what others might think they should do or used to do (Salaman, 1995).

It therefore follows that during an era of rapid and far-reaching change, the use of rigid and inflexible approaches to management development can no longer be tolerated if they create frustration and disillusionment among managers. Such approaches will inevitably lead to lower levels of morale and motivation amongst managers and ultimately waste resources and threaten future organisational success (Doyle, 1995, 2000; Currie, 1999).

As you study the rest of this chapter you will become aware that there are in existence different interpretations of what we mean by the terms ‘management’, ‘managing’ and ‘the manager’. You should also note that these differences will influence the way organisations, professional bodies, government agencies and acdemic institutions view and approach management development. This gives rise to a number of issues and debates and these will be identified and critically explored throughout the chapter.

  • What is management development?

There are many definitions of management development to select from, but most contemporary definitions share the characteristics contained in the view of development suggested by Thomson et al. (2001). We have used the term in a comprehensive sense to encompass the different ways in which managers improve their capabilities. It includes management education, which is often taken to refer to formal, structured learning in an institutional context, and man- A key point to note from Thomson et al.’s definition is the distinction they make between what constitutes management education, training and development.

Unfortunately, these terms are often used in overlapping and interchangeable ways within organisations and as such they can generate confusion, leading to ineffective development. For example, management development is often seen as synonymous with ‘sending people on training or education courses’ – even when such courses may be the least appropriate way to develop individuals or groups of managers and may even generate resistance and frustration (Roberts and McDonald, 1995; Mole 1996, 2000; Currie, 1999).


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