Implementing and evaluating management development programmes HR Management

Earlier in this chapter the question was posed: ‘Why are we developing this manager?’ In this section attention will turn to the techniques and choices available to organizations when they seek to implement their development programmes. Again, in keeping with our open systems principles and ideas, it is important that any implementation plan acknowledges the diversity of management roles and responsibilities and the contexts in which they operate.

  • Acknowledging the diversity of management

We saw earlier that development has to be linked to the reality of managerial work. When organising development programmes, it is important to cater for the diversity of management skills, attitudes and experience that reside within the organisation. One useful example is given by Odiorne (1984), who advocates a portfolio approach to development to improve the overall efficiency of the process and ensure the optimal allocation of resources. This requires organisations to make a range of decisions and develop a ‘mix’ of contingent objectives and techniques arranged to match the profile of the management team in the organisation.

Shaping development activity in this way to accommodate the diverse needs of the managers and their employing organisations requires certain questions to be considered before development commences:

  • Who is being developed?
    • Is it older managers seeking new challenges or younger ‘high fliers’ on a fast-track development programme?
    • Is it senior managers seeking to enhance their strategic skills, middle managers seeking to update and broaden existing skills, or junior-level managers looking to acquire additional managerial skills?
    • Is it technical specialists or professionals seeking to expand their cross-functional capabilities, or supervisors receiving training for the first time?
  • What is being developed?
    • Does the programme seek to develop new attitudes and values, as in the case of a recently privatised public utility or a private sector company that has just undergone a takeover?
    • Does the programme aim to develop technical, financial, business or interpersonal skills?
      What are the priorities?
    • Does the programme seek to change existing managerial behaviours and styles to reflect an internal organisational restructuring, such as the introduction of new technology?
  • Where will the development take place?
    • Should development be on-the-job in the office, factory or sales territory, or offthe- job in a residential hall, academic institution or individual’s home, or a combination of all of these?
  • What are the most appropriate techniques to achieve the best fit between individual and organisational requirements?
    • What are the most cost-effective/appropriate techniques available?
    • How much scope is there to accommodate individual learning needs and preferences?
    • How much choice is delegated to the individual over the choice of development techniques?
    • How is conflict resolved between individual and organisational needs?

(You should note that some of these questions are explored later in the chapter in the section that deals with special needs in different contexts.) It is only when these questions have been considered that the organisation is in a position to construct a framework of development that best fits its needs and the needs of its managers. In practice, however, this can prove problematical.

Organisations may be unclear about the aims and objectives of their development activities and how they meet their needs, e.g. longer-term supply of future managers or short-term expediency to meet sudden strategic changes in structure? There may be confusion about different learning methods and what they mean in different contexts, e.g. are special projects the same as in-company job rotation? There may be a failure to fully assess the implications of different methods when they are used in these different contexts, e.g. managers may prefer on-the-job, work-based development (Woodall, 2000).

But without effective support from motivated and competent line managers and HRD professionals, such approaches may become piecemeal and ineffective or even lead to resentment and frustration (Doyle, 1995; Currie, 1999).

  • Development needs analysis

If managers are to be developed effectively, their individual development needs must be assessed in a careful and systematic fashion. There are several ways to do this. Traditionally, the diagnosis of development needs for managers has often relied upon an ad-hoc and piecemeal process of selective observation in the role joined with the ‘constructive’ but often subjective input from others in the organisation (usually senior managers or HR professionals).

To counter this, organisations are turning to performance appraisal as a structured way of identifying the skills and behaviours that are required to meet business objectives (Mumford, 1997; Woodall and Winstanley, 1998). During the appraisal process, both the individual and their boss review performance against departmental/organizational objectives and other performance criteria to determine development needs. Once analysed, the development needs form the basis of a negotiated and agreed personal development plan, which is regularly reviewed and modified in the light of changing organisational and individual circumstances.

In addition to performance appraisal, more and more organisations are turning to the use of assessment/development ‘centres’ to analyse development needs. These ‘centres’ are ‘workshops which measure the abilities of participants against the agreed success criteria for a job or role’ (Lee and Beard, 1994). It should also be borne in mind that the term ‘development centre’ relates to the process of identifying needs, not to a specific place (Munchus and McArthur, 1991).

The main aim of a development centre is to ‘obtain the best possible indication of people’s actual or potential competence to perform at the target job or job level’ (Woodruffe, 1993: 2). Most development centres operate in the following way:

  • There is careful selection of job-related criteria. These may be in the form of competences, dimensions, attributes, critical success factors, etc.
  • A group of managers is identified and brought together in the form of a workshop normally lasting one or two days. In the workshops a series of diagnostic instruments and/or multiple assessment techniques are administered that aim to measure an individual’s ability to perform against the job-related criteria. These can take the form of psychometric tests, planning exercises, in-tray exercises, interviews, games, or simulations.
  • A team of trained assessors observe and measure performance, evaluate and provide structured feedback and guidance to individuals.
  • After the workshop, line manager and/or trainers utilise the feedback to help the individual construct a personal development plan.

Although the use of development centres is growing, there have been a number of criticisms, which tend to revolve around: assessmen techniques that do not relate to the task or job, poor organisation, poorly trained assessors, ineffective feedback and the lack of follow-up action (Dulewicz, 1991; Whiddett and Branch, 1993). Whichever method or combination of methods is selected, it is vital that each manager’s needs are carefull assessed before implementing a development programme, and that an effective system of providing feedback is established.

  • Formalised methods for developing managers

A great deal of management development is formalised, planned and structured. It can take place ‘on-the-job’ – within the workplace environment, for instance a training centre. Or it can take place ‘off-the-job’ – away from the workplace in a college, university or conference/seminar (Mumford, 1997; Prokopenko, 1998; Woodall and Winstanley, 1998; Woodall, 2000).Research by Burgoyne and Stuart (1991) reveals that the following methods are likely to be used in more formalised and structured approaches (in order of predominance of use):

  • lectures;
  • games and simulations;
  • projects;
  • case studies;
  • experiential (analysis of experience);
  • guided reading;
  • role playing;
  • seminars;
  • programmed instruction (computerised/packaged).

Although these methods are widely used in education and training, they can often appear to be abstract, detached and somewhat artificial in nature (Burgoyne and Stuart, 1991). Criticisms have been levelled at the relevance of much of the taught material and the problems of transferring knowledge and skills into the reality of the workplace (Roberts and McDonald, 1995; Mumford, 1997).

  • Competency-based development programmes

Competency-based development is a good example of a formalised and structured method for developing managers. This approach to development was introduced with the aim of improving the overall effectiveness of UK managers following severe criticism of their performance and its impact on the national economy in the late 1980s. National standards for management competency (competency here is defined as an ability to apply knowledge and skills to a required standard of performance) were devised in the early 1990s by the Lead Body for management standards – the Management Charter Initiative (MCI).

The standards are part of the UK system of National Vocational Qualifications . There are now national standards of competence for supervisory, middle and senior managers that equate to NVQ levels 3, 4 and 5 respectively. Within each area of activity or role, there are associated units of competence derived from a functional analysis of what constitutes ‘the manager’s job’.

For example, in the role of managing people, one unit of competence is to ‘contribute to the recruitment and selection of personnel’. Having identified units of competence, there is a further subdivision into a series of elements against which there are established performance criteria and range statements. A standard is therefore established by which managerial performance can be assessed. Evidence can then be gathered and presented by the manager to a trained assessor, who will judge whether their performance is deemed to be ‘competent’ in their current position.

The management standards were revised in 1997 to take account of concerns and reservations expressed about the administration and implementation of the original standards. The aim has been to produce a more flexible framework of mandatory and optional units from which managers can select the pathway of competence that best suits their circumstances and the qualification they wish to pursue. The new standards relate to the following key management roles:

  • manage activities;
  • manage resources;
  • manage people;
  • manage information;
  • manage energy;
  • manage quality;
  • manage projects.

Since their inception, competence-based development programmes based on the MCI national standards have attracted considerable criticism, in both philosophical and practical terms. Philosophically, there has been a long-standing, fundamental disagreement about the whole basis on which competences were conceived and the way in which they are being enacted. For instance, attention has been drawn to the behaviourist orthodoxy that underpins competence-based training and development, which, ideologically, grew rom the ‘social efficiency’ movement in the USA, and which, some argue, represents a form of ‘social engineering’ in which habitual behaviour is a key principle (Hyland, 1994).

In the case of management development, this objection is particularly relevant as such a philosophical stance seemingly precludes a consideration of the more complex, innovative, creative elements that underpin managerial work, especially in a time of radical change (Jacobs, 1989). As Jacobs observes, although competence-based forms of management training and development can introduce more structure and discipline, they can only ever be a partial solution because they fail to deal with the softer, qualitative aspects of managing.

Others have challenged the functional, reductionist, mechanistic approach and the extent to which it leads to an ‘abstraction of reality’, and have questioned how far competences can be generalised from a particular context (Antonacopoulou and Fitzgerald, 1996; Loan- Clarke, 1996). As Kilcourse (1994) remarks: ‘competencies thought to have general application will fit where they touch when it comes to specific organisations’.

Managers, who may be viewed as competent in one contextual setting, may become ‘incompetent’ when faced with new challenges in another context. Indeed, as Kilcourse (1994) argues, during a time of radical change, when innovation and creativity are at a premium, competence-based forms of development may be the ‘antithesis of what is required’. However, others would appear to disagree. Cockerill (1994) argues that, on the basis of work done at NatWest Bank, it is possible to identify ‘high performance managerial competences, relevant to rapidly changing environments and flexible forms of organisation’.

Winterton and Winterton (1997), in a study of 16 UK organisations, found that a competency- based approach was a useful basis for needs analysis and gave coherence and structure to management development. However, (and somewhat controversially) they claim it appeared to ‘prove’ the causal link between management development and business performance (see the later section on evaluating management development).

Some have argued that there may be too much emphasis on assessment and not enough on learning (Loan-Clarke, 1996). This might be interpreted as a way of saying that the focus on practical, workplace outcomes is subordinating learning and understanding to the extent that the competence approach might be seen as almost anti-theory/anti-academic. There may therefore be a case for reasserting the role of established methodologies within the existing and expanding educational and vocational framework (Stewart and Hamlin, 1992a and 1992b).

However, many managers might argue (and regularly do) that the gulf between learning and knowledge and its application in the workplace still remains. Theory, it would seem, does not travel easily into the workplace, and competence-based management development is presented as one attempt to overcome this problem.

At an operational, practical level, there are major concerns about the way competence- based approaches are seen to operate (cost, time, bureaucracy, inflexibility etc.), and many of these concerns carry over into the way management development strategies and approaches are being implemented to generate frustration and resentment in some contexts when this approach is seen not to be appropriate or relevant to the needs of managers (Stewart and Hamlin, 1992a; Currie and Darby, 1995; Antonacopoulou and Fitzgerald, 1996; Loan-Clarke, 1996).

What can we conclude in respect of competency-based approaches? Despite the criticisms, it would appear that the notion of competence-based development has now been established within the framework of UK management development. Evidence suggests that competency-based development is increasingly viewed as a way of strengthening the link between management development investment and business strategy (Winterton and Winterton, 1997; Thomson et al., 2001).

However, since its inception there have also been some interesting changes and adaptations to the generic competency model. For example, in an MCI-sponsored survey, 20 per cent of those surveyed reported that they were using the MCI competency framework, but within that figure 45 per cent said they had customised the standards to suit their own purposes (Management Charter Initiative, 1993).

More recent evidence supports this, and shows that many organisations are beginning to move away from the generic model originally developed by MCI to a more contextually based approach. Rather than adhere to what they judge to be a somewhat costly, bureaucratic, prescriptive and rigid framework of national standards, organisations appear to be ‘doing their own thing’.

They are retaining the competence philosophy and principle, but devising their own competence framework for managers within the unique context of their organizational situation. They feel this is necessary if they are to respond to the complexity induced by rapid environmental change (Cockerill, 1994; Roberts, 1995). Evidence would also suggest that competence frameworks for managers are now becoming more fragmented and differentiated as they adapt to suit changing circumstances, for example shortened organizational lifecycles (Sparrow and Bognanno, 1994; Roberts, 1995).

Other adaptations of the original model include the growing use of competences to assess management behaviour and performance: ‘the majority of organisations favour frameworks based on the development of behaviour rather than prescribed national standards’ (Mathewman, 1995: 1). But somewhat more controversially, there is now a growing quest to identify higher-order, supra- or meta-competences that can be used to inform personality testing for selection and other ‘judgements’ about managerial behavior and performance (Sparrow and Bognanno, 1994).

What appears to be happening, therefore, is a process of adjustment whereby the original NVQ/MCI framework of management competences is being utilised for basic skills provision in a bottom-up approach, while new behavioural competences are being cascaded down to set behavioural patterns and cultural imperatives (Mathewman, 1995). This adjustment may be seen as an inevitable consequence of what some would judge to be inherent flaws in a nationally driven, generic framework.

But although this more pragmatic, flexible response by organisations is likely to be welcomed by many, it does raise a number of issues, not least how to maintain and guarantee a system of assessment and national accreditation for management qualifications with any measure of confidence. Finally, it is important to remember that ‘competence-base development is not seen to be a panacea for all management development ills but is one approach which may be taken with others’ (Currie and Darby, 1995: 17).

  • Less formal methods for developing managers

There is a growing interest in less formalised methods for developing managers. As we saw earlier, this may in part reflect a general dissatisfaction with generic, formal off-the-shelf courses or education programmes that do not meet unique organisational or individual needs (Roberts and McDonald, 1995; Mole, 2000). It may also reflect the desire by individuals and organisations to take advantage of more flexible and cost-effective methods that fit with changing lifestyles and rapidly changing organisational situations.

  • Action learning

In Chapter , the significance of experiential learning processes to the development of managers was identified. Much of the theory relating to experiential learning is drawn from the theoretical work of Kolb (1984) and Honey and Mumford (1986), who introduced the concept of a learning cycle in which managers learn through a process of:

  • implementation;
  • reflection;
  • making changes;
  • initiating further action.

Burgoyne and Stuart (1991) point out that a greater focus on experiential learning in the workplace, coupled to a reaction against the ‘remoteness’, complication and institutionalization of management development, has encouraged organisations to adopt new methods of learning. Many of these new approaches are built around the principles of action learning pioneered by writers such as Reg Revans. Revans saw learning (L) as a combination of what he terms ‘programmed knowledge’ (P) and ‘questioning insight’ (Q): thus L = P + Q. When facing unprecedented changes, managers cannot know what programmed knowledge they will need.

Instead, they need to ‘understand the subjective aspects of searching the unfamiliar, or learning to pose useful and discriminating questions’. Therefore action learning becomes a ‘simple device of setting them to tackle real problems that have so far defied solution’ (Revans, 1983: 11).Revans argues that managerial learning has to embrace both ‘know-how’ and ‘knowthat’, and be rooted in real problem-solving, where ‘lasting behavioural change is more likely to follow the reinterpretation of past experiences than the acquisition of fresh knowledge’.

Managers will be more able to make their interpretations, which are ‘necessarily subjective, complex and ill-structured’, and reorder their perceptions by working with colleagues who are engaged in the same process, rather than with nonmanagers such as management teachers who are ‘not exposed to real risk in responsible action’. In other words, managers form ‘learning sets’ (groups of four to six people) who, with the aid of a facilitator, work together and learn to give and accept criticism, advice and support.

Margerison (1994b), citing Revans, likens this approach to ‘comrades in adversity’. Managers will only ‘learn effectively when they are confronted with difficulties and have th opportunity to share constructively their concerns and experiences with others’.

Margerison (1991), drawing on case studies and personal experience of supervising action learning programmes, points out that managers learn a considerable amount:

  • about themselves,
  • about their job,
  • about team members, and most of all
  • about how to improve things and make changes.

Experiential learning methods such as action learning are gaining prominence in the field of management development. As organisations confront the growing uncertainty and instability brought about by far-reaching and radical change, they are discovering that management development is likely to be more effective when it is rooted in the reality of what managers actually do and how they actually behave.

However, some raise doubts about the efficacy of action learning. For example, will managers truly engage in double-loop learning if this challenges current management cultures and political structures with concomitant risks for the individual (Pedler, 1997)?

  • Coaching and mentoring


To many managers, coaching and mentoring represent the most tangible, practical and, if carried out effectively, possibly most useful forms if relatively informal on-the-job development.Coaching is defined by Torrington et al. (1994) as ‘improving the performance of somebody who is already competent rather than establishing competence in the first place’ . It is analogous to the sports coach who is seeking to improve performance by continually analysing and offering constructive criticism and guidance to an athlete or player.

The coach (boss) must be willing to share tasks and assignments with the individual. Each task must have scope, responsibility and authority to challenge and test the individual. Coaching usually begins with a period of instruction and ‘shadowing’ to grasp the essential aspects of the task. There is then a transfer of responsibility for the task to the individual. Throughout the process there is a dialogue, with regular feedback on performance in the form of constructive criticism and comments. The effectiveness of this feedback is dependent upon a sound working relationship.

In most organisations, coaching is done on an informal basis and is dependent on the boss having the inclination, time and motivation to do it, as well as possessing the necessary expertise and judgement for it to succeed.


Mentoring was described more fully in Chapter. It differs from coaching in two ways:

  • The relationship is not usually between the individual and his or her immediate boss. An older, more experienced manager unconnected with the individual’s immediate workplace is normally selected or agrees to act as mentor.
  • Mentoring is about developing and sharing relationships rather than engaging in specific activities.

Mentoring represents a powerful form of management development for both the parties involved. For the individual, it allows them to discuss confusing, perplexing or ambiguous situations, and their innermost feelings and emotions, with somebody they can trust and respect. They gain the benefit of accumulated wisdom and experience from somebody who is knowledgeable and ‘street-wise’ in the ways of the organisation, especially its political workings.

For older managers looking for new challenges and stimulation in their managerial role, mentoring represents an ideal development opportunity. It gives them an opportunity to achieve satisfaction and personal reward by sharing in the growth and maturity of another individual.

  • Projects and secondments

Project management is increasing in prominence as the role and function of a manager changes within an increasingly turbulent, uncertain and often ambiguous world (Watson and Harris, 1999). Managers are developing new skills and having to take on board new values (Rosenfeld and Wilson, 1999). Buchanan and Boddy (1992) highlight the need to develop the notion of the ‘flexible manager’ who has the ability to:

  • understand and relate to the wider environment;
  • manage in that environment;
  • manage complex, changing structures;
  • innovate and initiate change;
  • manage and utilise sophisticated information systems;
  • manage people with different values and expectations.

One way to develop these attitudes and competences is to delegate responsibility for managing a cross-functional team of people, tasked with achieving a specific organizational goal within a fixed time-scale and to a set budget. This cross-functional project management role not only improves core management skills such as communication and motivation but is also effective at developing ‘higher order’ diagnostic, judgemental, evaluative and political skills (Buchanan and Boddy, 1992).

Secondments are also increasingly being used for manager development. Multinational companies have highly sophisticated management exchange programmes that are used not only to develop important language and cultural skills in managers, but also to reinforce the organisation’s central belief and value systems (see the example of Unilever earlier in this chapter and the later section that explores international management development).

Exchange programmes also exist between public and private sector organisations to transfer knowledge and broaden understanding. Some larger organisations are seconding their managers to various initiatives designed to assist small business ventures and community programmes.

  • Outdoor management development

In a climate and environment of greater risk, challenge, change and ambiguity for managers, increasing attention is focusing on the benefits of outdoor management development (OMD) as a development tool. OMD has its roots in the Outward Bound movement founded by Kurt Hahn (Burnett and James, 1994). The aim is to provide opportunities for personal growth and for managers to realise the potential of their ‘inner resources’ (Irvine and Wilson, 1994).

In OMD, managers are exposed to emotional, physical and mental risks and challenges in which skills such as leadership and teamwork become real to the individuals and groups concerned (Burnett and James, 1994) and where ‘the penalties for wrong decisions are painful; the consequence of bad judgements can be as real as being lost in a cold rainstorm at the edge of a dark forest’ (Banks, 1994: 11).

Others have likened OMD to ‘outdoor action learning’ in which ‘the physical tasks at the core of outdoor development courses, whether they be abseiling down a cliff, climbing a mountain peak or navigating rapids in canoes are real tasks which present real problems to real people in real time with real constraints’ (Banks, 1994: 9).However, OMD has received considerable criticism in the past

Perhaps the most controversial was the 1993 TV documentary from the Channel 4 Cutting Edge series, which featured a group of managers being ‘damaged in body and mind’ while on such a course (Banks, 1994). Others have been critical of the degree of risk and adventure that managers actually experience, and argue that many of the claimed ‘benefits’ of OMD can be attained within existing development frameworks (Irvine and Wilson, 1994). J

ones and Oswick (1993) identify a plethora of claimed benefits for OMD, many of which they say are anecdotal and unsubstantiated. When they are evaluated, there is evidence of bias as much of the evaluation is carried out by those who provide the training.

  • Self-development

Organisations that invest in effective management development programmes are encouraging their managers to take more responsibility and control of their own development. As Boydell and Pedler (1981) remark: If managers take responsibility for their own development they are likely to:

  • improve career prospects;
  • improve performance;
  • develop certain skills;
  • achieve full potential/self-actualisation.

A range of techniques exist for managers to undertake self-development. Some involve managers helping each other by sharing experiences in self-managed learning groups (see previous section on actio learning). Other approaches are more personally focused, using techniques such as distance learning materials, computer-based training and interactive videos. (For a fuller discussion of the methods used for self-development, see Pedler et al., 1990.)

In summary, this section has outlined some of the formal and informal methods that are currently being used to develop managers. However, it must be borne in mind that a great deal of development takes place in ways that are not only less formal, they are incidental and opportunistic (Mumford, 1997). There may be times when the individual manager is unaware that development has even taken place, e.g. trial and error, learning from mistakes, playing political games etc.

This suggests that development may have as much to do with the provision of organisational support and facilitation for the creation of a learning culture (Woodall 2000) and managing the influence of organisational context (social, political, cultural) in which managers operate (Doyle, 2000a) as it does with the selection and implementation of specific development methods.

  • Evaluating management development

If management development is to be effective in meeting individual needs and delivering organisation goals, the whole process must be effectively evaluated to make judgements about its cost-effectiveness and aid ongoing organisational learning and improvement (Easterby-Smith, 1994). Traditionally, the literature on evaluation has focused heavily on the training and education ‘components’ of development (Warr et al., 1970; Rae, 1986).

Evaluation is concerned with the immediate training or educational ‘event’: measuring the inputs to the event, the process itself and immediate outcomes (see Figure 10.4). Measurement is against identified development needs and training objectives within the framework of a systematic training cycle (Harrison, 1997). There is often less concern with the longer-term impact and effects of the event or activity (Rae, 1986).

Evaluating management development

Evaluating management development

  • Approaching evaluation

There are different approaches to evaluation. Some are regarded as being objective, rigorous and scientific, while others are much more pragmatic, subjective and interpretative in orientation (Easterby-Smith, 1994). In collecting data, it is normal to employ a range of quantitative and qualitative methods (Smith and Porter, 1990). Methods will include:

  • in-course and post-course questionnaires;
  • attitude surveys and psychological tests before and after the event;
  • appraisal systems;
  • observations by trainers and others;
  • self-reports and critical incident analysis.
  • Some issues in evaluation

In attempting evaluation, a number of issues emerge. Most evaluation is short termist in outlook – captured in the ubiquitous ‘happy sheet’ questionnaire where questions focus on the immediacy of development activity rather than its longer-term outcomes. But to be effective, development must permit managers (a) the opportunity to transfer and apply new knowledge and skills and (b) a period of learning and adjustment in respect of newly acquired attitudes and behaviours. This implies that any evaluation of development outcomes has to have a longer-term orientation.

Figure presents a more developed view of the evaluation process. It incorporates pre and post development evaluation but critically, it suggests that attention must be given to evaluating post development activity after a period of time has elapsed – ideally somewhere between 6 and 12 months. This permits those responsible for development to make informed judgements about knowledge and skills transfer to the management role and attitudinal and behavioural change.

However, it should be borne in mind that, while the process shown in Figure may be easier to apply to structured and formal development activity such as management training courses and education programmes, it can also be applied to less formal approaches such as coaching or mentoring. In addition to assessing changes in the performance and behaviour of individual managers, evaluation must include some assessment of the impact of the organizational context in which managers are seeking to apply their new knowledge, e.g. the cultural and political environment that may promote or inhibit development.

As Smith (1993) observes, ‘management development programmes are not context free but dependent on the cultural baggage of the participants and the organisation’. Therefore any judgment about the outcomes of management development programmes must be viewed within the context in which they are embedded. This raises further issues about the way management development outcomes themselves are interpreted and justified.

For example, any claims about the efficacy of management development investment may fall prey to political games. As Fox (1989) explains, ‘because a pseudo-scientific approach [to evaluation] does not deal with human issues and value judgements, it is not surprising that they fall into disuse or are simply done by token [then] politics takes over’. Both Fox (1989) and Currie (1994), who have examined the evaluation of management development programmes in the National Health Service, conclude that political and cultural factors were heavily influential in shaping the evaluation process.

Another issue relates to the way development outcomes are measured. It is common to encounter evaluation methodologies that are left striving to display some form of pseudo-scientific objectivity to win or protect investment in development activity. For example, those responsible for development might be tempted to make unsubstantiated causal links between an investment in development and some aspect of organizational performance, e.g. annual sales.

Another problem is that the environment in which evaluation is taking place is often highly complex and subjective and evaluation methodologies may be judged simplistic and inadequate (Smith, 1993; Mole, 1996). For example, some of the criticisms levelled at competency-based development discussed earlier revolve around the doubts and reservations over supposedly objective and structured internal and external verification procedures as a means of determining the level of an individual’s competency (Loan-Clarke, 1996).

In other words, ‘the complexity of management training and development demonstrates the point that measuring its effectiveness cannot be adequately accomplished by using a single, generic formula’ (Endres and Kleiner, 1990). Concerns surround the need to ensure that emotional, attitudinal and behavioural outcomes are measured and have an equal validity alongside harder aspects such as financial performance and technical competence.

This necessitates the use of carefully constructed and focused methodologies incorporating ethnographic, interpretative techniques (Fox, 1989; Currie, 1994). But this presupposes that those tasked with evaluation have the time, commitment and skills to conduct research in these areas.

Pre and post development activity evaluation

Pre and post development activity evaluation

Looking at all these issues, it seems inevitable that the evaluation of management development will always be a somewhat difficult, complex and at times contentious process where it involves the measurement of changes in some aspect of human behaviour. One way to improve evaluation is for organisations to adopt a more systemic, holistic perspective of evaluation. This can be done by:

  • Examining the extent to which development activity fits with individual needs and organisational context.
  • Assessing how far new behaviours can be transferred and applied in the workplace whether or not new behaviour corresponds with espoused organisational culture and values.
  • Adopting methodologies that can measure both hard and soft aspects of performance (Easterby-Smith, 1994; Mole, 1996).
  • From a more practical perspective, rather than focus on the benefits of development, consider the ramifications of not doing development.
  • Rather than looking forward to eventual outcomes, it might be more prudent to look back at, for example, past mistakes, which can often be quantified.

Improvements can be measured from that point, i.e. how mistakes and associated cost have been eliminated through development activity. But are we asking too much? Is evaluation a chimera? As Easterby-Smith (1994) states:

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