Organisational approaches to management development HR Management

  • Why develop this manager?

Having devised a clear and communicated policy for management development, those responsible for implementing development need to think through and be able to justify why they are developing an individual manager (or a group of managers). The reasons for developing managers are varied. For example:

  • to introduce new attitudes and behaviours to promote culture change;
  • to encourage more empowerment and innovation;
  • to develop the knowledge and the skills to seek new market opportunities;
  • to develop the knowledge to maximise the use of new technology;
  • to facilitate the introduction of new systems, processes and working practices.

You will have noted that in addition to developing new knowledge and skills, management development is a way of shaping individual and collective attitudes and behaviours – an important consideration when implementing organisational change. As well as organisations ensuring that development is linked to the philosophies and strategic objectives of the organisation, they must also take account of individual needs, expectations and aspirations.

This can often be a difficult balance to achieve, and frequently becomes a source of tension (Hopfl and Dawes, 1995; Currie, 1999). For instance, senior managers who are seeking a quick-fix solution to a deep-rooted managerial or organisational problem will often consult with development ‘experts’, who are only too pleased to solve the problem by introducing them to the latest development fad. When the ‘quick-fix’ solution fails to produce the anticipated results or (worse) exacerbates an existing problem, management development is at risk of being undermined and discredited (Roberts and McDonald, 1995; Currie, 1999).

It is therefore vital that organisations view management development as a long-term investment and select an approach that is suited to their specific needs and requirements.

  • Selecting the right approach

Management development can be approached in a number of different ways. Mumford (1997) describes three different types of approach that are broadly representative of current UK management development (see the box on the next page). Burgoyne (1988) argues that management development may be considered as progressing through different levels of maturity. At Level 1 there is no systematic approach to management development, and at Level 6 management development not only shapes and informs corporate strategy, it actually enhances the process of strategy formation. In practice, management development approaches for most organizations rarely extend beyond Levels 1 and 2.

Levels of maturity or organisational management development

Levels of maturity or organisational management development

Those who reach Levels 5 and 6 find it is ‘often precariously achieved and lost’. Burgoyne argues that to progress through the levels of maturity to the point where management development is making the fullest contribution to organisation development demands a much more holistic approach to development. In this approach, both ‘hard’ (roles, duties, technical competence, etc.) and ‘soft’ (career, quality of life, ethos, values, etc.) managerial issues are considered when framing approaches to development.

  • A ‘piecemeal’ approach

Various Approaches to Management Development

Many approaches to development have characteristics similar to Mumford’s Type 1 and Type 3 development and Burgoyne’s Levels 1 and 2 and accordingly may be labelled as piecemeal. Implementing piecemeal approaches will almost certainly lead to inefficient and ineffective development. Piecemeal approaches to development are characterised by the following:

  • There is no management development infrastructure. Development is not linked to business strategy. Activities are unrelated, and lack overall direction or philosophy. They fail to reinforce each other, and reduce the potential for organisational effectiveness.
  • Development often focuses on the needs of the organisation, and fails to meet the learning needs and aspirations of individuals and groups.
  • Development is largely defined in terms of a range of universal, off-the-shelf internal or external courses.
  • There is tacit support for management education and training because it is seen as a ‘good thing to be doing’ irrespective of organisational needs.
  • There is a lack of common vision among those responsible for management development.

For instance, some managers see development as a central part of their job, others see it as peripheral and a nuisance.

  • Management development effort can be wasted because it is used as a solution to the wrong problem. Rather than developing managers, the correct solution may be to change aspects of organisation structure or systems.
  • It is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of a piecemeal approach that lacks clear direction and established objectives.

Sadly, piecemeal and fragmented approaches to management development are all too commonplace (Roberts and McDonald, 1995; Mole, 2000). Such approaches are a significant contributor to the failure of management development to fulfil personal and organisational expectations (Temporal, 1990; Mumford, 1997; Mole, 2000). Not only do they waste investment, time and effort, there is also a risk of damage to existing levels of morale and commitment among managers as efforts to develop them founder on organisational barriers to change (Doyle, 1995, 2000a). As Molander and Winterton (1994) contend:

  • An open systems view of management development

In Chapter, the open systems model was introduced as a way of conceptualising and making sense of the complexity of organisational life (Kast and Rosenweig, 1985; Morgan, 1997). In this section, it will be argued that if organisations can be persuaded to adopt an open systems perspective in relation to management development, then they are likely to overcome many of the problems created by a piecemeal approach to development.

Instead of looking at management development in isolation (as a closed system) it is now being considered as an integral part of a wider organisational system, and, more importantly, is linked to the context and ‘reality’ of managerial work (see, for example, Mumford’s Type 2 development).Viewing management development from an open systems perspective recognises and focuses attention on the following factors:

  • Management development is viewed as both a system and a process. It is composed of identifiable parts or components that act together in an organized way. Inputs to the process of development are transformed into a range of outputs that affect both the individual and the organisation in some way.
  • Figure also demonstrates that in an open system the management development process interacts with and is influenced by variables from other environmental and organisational subsystems (structural, social, technological and cultural). For example, prevailing ideologies, values and beliefs within the organisation represent a cultural subsystem. Management development can be used as a way of reinforcing this cultural subsystem by shaping and moulding managers’ attitudes and values and exerting pressure upon them to conform and display ‘acceptable’ behaviour patterns – an important consideration during times of radical change.
  • Management development becomes integrated with, and mutually dependent upon other organisational subsystems, activities and processes. For example, as we saw earlier in this chapter, the system for strategic planning and the setting of organizational goals must interact with a management development system that seeks to develop the managerial skills and knowledge to organise and implement the business strategy (Ready et al., 1994; Thomson et al., 2001).
  • Such an interaction means that if you develop the manager, you develop the organisation, and vice versa. As the organisation changes and develops, so positive influencing ‘loops’ are created that lead to the further development of managers (Morgan, 1997). Similarly, as managers are developed, positive influencing ‘loops’ lead to changes in the organisation which produce greater effectiveness. It can, of course, work the other way. Poor or ineffective development can create negative influencing ‘loops’ that undermine organisational or managerial effectiveness. The need therefore is to focus on managing management development as well as doing management development.
  • Viewing management development in open systems terms reveals the full extent of its influence on the organisation, and is likely to lead to more detailed and objective assessment of the performance and overall effectiveness of managers who are developed.

In the subsequent sections of this chapter, an open systems perspective of management development will become the basis for both theoretical and practical analysis and discussion.

Management development as an open system

Management development as an open system


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