Title: Mutual Learning and Management Development: Client and Academic Expectations. Guy Brown and John Fenwick WORKING PAPER

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1 Title: Mutual Learning and Management Development: Client and Academic Expectations Stream: Leadership and Management Development 10 th International Conference on HRD Research and Practice across Europe Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University June 2009 Guy Brown and John Fenwick WORKING PAPER Key words: management development, client relationships, management effectiveness Guy Brown Principal Lecturer, Newcastle Business School Northumbria University Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8ST Telephone: Dr John Fenwick Reader, Newcastle Business School Northumbria University Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 8ST Telephone:

2 1 Introduction This working paper explores the expectations that clients and educators bring to the management development process. Using video evidence collected amongst contract managers, learners and line managers in three current management effectiveness programmes alongside the existing management development literature, the paper draws initial conclusions about the learning process, the importance of understanding differing expectations amongst participants and providers, assessment, and some of the continuing challenges for management educators. 2. Context The external management development provider brings expectations, perhaps unstated, of what the client may want, and what benefits the programme is likely to bring for participants. Only after the provider has spent time with staff in the organisation establishing a relationship, gathering information and building trust, can original expectations be reviewed. In a bespoke developmental programme, rather than an off-the-peg intervention, original expectations may turn out to be quite inaccurate. Similarly, the contractor may have initial expectations of the provider which are subject to considerable change: the programme may be revised substantially in size and scope, expectations of outcomes adjusted upward or downward, or anxieties about the applicability of academic expertise to real public or private sector organisations allayed. Within the contracting organisation there may also be differences of expectation again, perhaps implicit - amongst commissioning staff, other managers, and participants themselves. The published literature provides some context for our interest (as researchers, and as external providers) in the topic. Paul Brown, for instance, discusses the dramatic growth of customised development programmes (1999, 351), with an increasing number involving formal accreditation towards a named award from the providing academic institution. Participants and the wider organisation find advantages in bespoke programmes that also offer formal qualifications but we suggest that expectations of participants, organisations (either or both paying for the service provided) and academic providers may not always be made explicit and may therefore not necessarily align. Brown s study suggests that managers perceive the advantages of accredited programmes in terms of recognition and greater motivation for the participants: and greater prestige and recognition for their organisations (1999, 356). The latter consideration may encourage the organisation to invest in such programmes.

3 Arguably, one of the principal advantages of the client-based qualification approach is that learning can be closely related to the organisational context within which the student works. The programme s content and assessments are usually more closely related to the student s job than on most open qualification programmes (Brown, 1999, 353). Smith considers a case-study of the provider-educator partnership in the National Health Service. This competence-based provision, linked to NVQs, replaced a previous programme offered by consultants and internal trainers which had worked reasonably well but had a problem of credibility...in the marketplace (2000, 247). The new programme was successful in raising the profile of management development within the organisation and providing an opportunity for junior and middle managers to have exclusive access to senior management that would have not been possible otherwise (Smith, 2000, 249). Our own experience of facilitating management development modules for a local authority client is consistent with this: learning by participants may be enhanced when the programme cuts across the usual hierarchical boundaries within the organisation. However, the programme reported by Smith also had problems. Some participants did not have the appropriate management responsibilities to complete the programme as they could not provide the evidence needed for the assessment portfolio, while other participants were reported as seeing the portfolio as tedious and time consuming rather than developmental (Smith, 2000, 249). This raises the issue of how far managers within the organisation are involved in the design of assessment regime, an aspect addressed in the case-study data below. Issues were also identified in the arrangements for and nature of feedback from the university assessors which added to negative views of the programme as a whole. Smith (2000, 249) sees the programme as having been innovative in providing a bespoke work-based learning programme sensitive to the culture and aims of the organisation but this, it seems, is not enough in itself. What more, then, is needed? A competence-based approach is not problematic in itself, and it need not be linked to relatively narrow requirements such as those associated with NVQs. We would argue simply for clarity of expectations: around assessment, and also in relation to participant involvement, for instance in establishing and supporting action learning sets. The use of action learning sets has been subject to the attentions of a number of management development specialists, for instance Mumford who concentrates on the context at work within which the individual learner attempts to carry through the content and

4 processes of the programme (1995, 19). Instead of collecting participants views of programme content or tutor effectiveness, he focussed upon the relationship between participant and others within their working environment (including the participants managers and subordinates). The distinction between the boss and the mentor was important in managing the impact of the action learning set within the workplace. Mumford s broad conclusion was that most participants gained something from most bosses and mentors but that the overwhelming impression...is of participants who had undefined original expectations, and whose experiences led them later to define what would go into an effective relationship at a level well below that which might have been achieved (1995, 25). The lesson of Mumford s study is therefore to focus both upon original expectations and upon the pattern of participants developmental relationships in the workplace. The latter may need to be mapped-out at the diagnostic stage. More generally, Stumpf and Longman (2000) reviewed the available models of client/consultant relationship (including marketing and service relationships, developmental stages and effort allocation models) before focussing upon the central question of business relationships: ie what do consultants want from a client relationship? This addresses one side of the pattern of expectations with which we are concerned in this paper: ie, provider expectations. Stumpf and Longman point to a number of relevant factors (for instance, style of working, emotional depth and duration of relationship) that contribute to a successful continuing client/consultant relationship. If this pattern of working is to constitute a partnership, then these factors strongly imply that the relationship must be of a collegial peer/peer nature (Stumpf and Longman, 2000, 129). From the private sector, Best, Lashley and Rowson (2007) considered an in-company education programme in leisure retailing, leading to a university Advanced Diploma award for managers completing an in-house programme. It uses a conceptual model that suggests that the benefits of training and development cannot be captured by solely economic measures, but a balanced score card of measures which include trainee views, measure[s] of employee and customer experiences as well as financial measures (2007, 235). As the authors recognise, the measurement issues involved are difficult, although the results reported are positive overall. For us, the question raised is again about the expectations of those involved: the managers, the wider organisation to which they belong, and the programme providers. We now consider expectations and learning through a case-study of local authority managers in North-East England.

5 3. Research Design This exploratory empirical research sought to provide an understanding of client and student expectations of corporate management development. To achieve this, the case study was designed specifically to explore critical success factors as perceived by contract managers of management development, students undertaking management development and line managers of those undertaking such programmes. Given the exploratory nature of this study, a qualitative research approach deriving from an interpretive perspective was adopted. Purposeful sampling was used to identify research participants, and primary data were gathered from contract managers, line managers and students from three organisations, each of which offers a middle manager development programme delivered by the Corporate and Management Development Centre, Newcastle Business School. Semi-structured interviews with open ended questions were used for data collection. Responses from an initial pilot study had indicated that the questions were coherent and clearly understood. The research questions were drawn from a literature review and centred on five lines of enquiry: 1. Identifying organizational needs and context 2. Client-Contractor relationship 3. Delivery methods 4. Impact and assessment 5. Accreditation/non accreditation Two researchers attended each semi structured interview to aid data interpretation. The following discussion of the findings is based on information garnered from the data capture. The findings are reduced to a series of main points with illustrative quotations included to allow the data itself to talk by giving voice to the informants themselves. 4. Initial Findings i. Identifying organizational needs and context The three contract managers emphasised the importance of a management development provider understanding fully the context and culture in which the client organisation operated. It was essential that significant time was afforded prior to

6 programme design and delivery to understand explicitly the nature of the organization and its internal and external issues as well as to develop an appreciation of the needs of individuals participants. The contract managers also noted the increased emphasis upon evidence of contextual understanding at tender or contract award stage. Students and line managers reiterated this need, particularly focusing upon the importance for programme deliverers to spend time in the workplace to appreciate the nature of work carried out, specific working methods and opportunities for workplace improvement. Contract managers and students also highlighted the need for programme design to match expected delivery styles and patterns. This should involve the management development provider gaining intelligence on past success and failures within the organisation, student expectations of the programme, time demands, and individual learning styles. The formation of programme design steering groups was highlighted as essential to aid this process. Clear documentation highlighting the nature of the programme, aims, anticipated outcomes, relevance to the organisation and learner, and workload demands should be produced and distributed to all learners and their line managers prior to programme launch. it is vital the learning provider has an opportunity to get under the skin of the company to understand what we do, where we want to be, our problems and our achievements we encourage interviews with the senior team and managers throughout the company to ensure learning meets our requirements. Focus groups with potential learners also ensures learning styles, content needs and preferred delivery patterns are identified learners must be involved in the design process pre induction or taster sessions were very important. understand what I was letting myself in for. These helped me ii. Client-Contractor Relationship

7 The three contract managers emphasized the importance of a partnership approach when designing and delivering management development solutions. A vital component of this partnership approach comes from open communication and mutual learning. It was important both parties were committed to listening and learning from one another s experience. Contract managers noted the frustration of regularly being offered off the shelf programmes which were not aligned to corporate goals, competence frameworks or organisational context. However, equally, the contract managers noted they sometimes adopted a paternal approach, unwilling to listen to alternative ideas from the provider. Students and line managers considered the partnership approach to be essential in delivering impact on the organisation and gaining commitment to learning. All affected by the learning should be involved in the ongoing design, facilitation, assessment and updating. Steering groups were highlighted as essential to this approach. Line managers and contract managers noted the importance of flexibility from providers in such a partnership, particularly the ability to amend or update content, assessment, delivery and materials at short notice based on partner feedback. Jointly developed learning materials were favoured, although partnership in assessment was less welcomed by research participants. There was a unanimous response favouring assessment to be retained by the learning provider. Students particularly welcomed learning which had been developed in partnership with senior managers within the organisation. This often was associated with relevance to the future direction of the organisation. in order to ensure relevance we had to provide full access to our organisation openness was vital management development has to be designed around our needs, our competence requirements, our strategy. Past commitment to college day release programmes did not provide this. Too many providers want to give you something off the shelf..no thanks

8 the senior team of the company must be involved in the partnership. They ensure it is relevant...steering groups made up of the university, senior managers, representatives from the HR department, learners and their line managers have continually shaped the programme...this only works if the provider is willing and able to continually change the programme iii. Delivery Methods All respondents noted the importance of flexible delivery approaches. Contract managers particularly favoured block and blended mode delivery whilst line managers preferred full or half day release, supported by action learning sets and supporting paper-based or on-line materials. Learners preferred block mode or full day release, ideally away from the work environment to minimize potential disruption. All respondents noted the focus of delivery should be on creating a culture of continuous improvement within the organisation. Learning must enhance participants ability to engage with the issues faced by the organisation. However, learners required learning to be more than purely meeting the needs of the service in which they worked; they also required broader knowledge and skills. Learners defined a need to expand their intellectual capability, Contract managers and learners wanted the opportunity to broaden management vision and challenge the organisation and their individual views. Action Learning Sets were favorably received by all respondents, although it was noted this required careful management and efforts must be made to ensure learners understand the process of such learning interventions. Action Learning Set tutorial guidance was essential to avoid failure. On-line learning was less favored. Reasons cited included: lack of time within the workplace to engage in such learning, difficulty in generating discussion and lack of opportunity to network with others.

9 Follow-up one-to-one and small group guidance and tutorial was a key requirement of learners. I learn best when I am away from the workplace, although I still check my s whenever there is a break action learning set discussions were very illuminating in regard to how we all have similar issues which we can help each other with workbooks and internet materials are useful but only as backup to what we have learned in the training room I never get time to read at home or work iv. Impact and Assessment Contract managers and line managers suggested the key measure of learning success was impact upon the organisation. There was a need for providers to ensure participants were able to leave the learning environment with practical tools and techniques that could be applied and evaluated. Action Learning Sets provided a good opportunity to reflect upon learning relevance. Learners particularly wanted assessment to be negotiated between themselves and their line managers. They also discussed the role of line manager as mentor, although this tended to be seen as an ideal which could not always be met. Dissemination of workplace improvement was critical to learner engagement but contract managers and line managers both noted that more was to be done. Internally, within organizations little was done to capture learner ideas and improvements. Line managers commented that traditional assessment from university/college-led management development had been focused on theory rather than practice. More effective models occurred when the learning provider engaged with learners and line managers to individualize learning. few providers can demonstrate impact of learning it is vital our line managers are involved in designing assessment...we can then demonstrate what we have learnt back in the office

10 I have never been asked to share what I have learnt, except at the final exhibition v. Accreditation/Non Accreditation All learners noted the opportunity for accreditation was critical to their engagement with management development. Contract managers equally favoured accredited programmes for several reasons, including ease of capturing ideas for workplace improvement, perception of learners and wider benefits to the organisation such as contribution to Investors in People and Talent Management schemes. Line managers had mixed responses. Some favoured accreditation, suggesting it encouraged learners to take management development more seriously; others suggested learners spent too long completing assessments rather than applying knowledge. Some line managers also noted the preference of some staff to collect certificates without significant evidence of impact. Professional body recognition was a key factor amongst all research participants although learners noted they rarely considered maintaining membership of the bodies upon completion of their programme of learning..gaining a qualification drives me to succeed.we all compete to see who can achieve the highest marks meaning we read more, research more, try ideas out to see if they will work, and learn more some people are good at assessments but they cannot apply their new found knowledge, that doesn t help us vi. Other Themes Other themes to emerge from the data included: line manager roles, access to learning materials, embedding learning in wider performance review and recognition of continuing professional development.

11 5. Areas for Further Investigation On the basis of the exploratory research carried out so far, a number of issues arise for further discussion. Management development is more than a simple client-contractor relationship: how can the needs and expectations of a wide range of stakeholders within the organisation be addressed? Return on investment and measurement of impact are becoming key expectations of the commissioning organisation, and impact may even be linked contractually to the provider s payment: have we yet developed robust systems of measurement? Accreditation of bespoke management development remains of significant importance to learners, yet organisations require assurances that content is relevant and practical, and is delivered flexibly: how are providers meeting this need? References Best, W, Lashley, C and Rowson, B (2007) In-Company Education: An Example of Best Practice? International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management 19 (3) Brown, P (1999) Client-Based Management Qualifications: A Case of Win-Win? Journal of Management Development 18 (4) Mumford, A (1995) Managers Developing Others Through Action Learning Industrial and Commercial Training 27 (2) Smith, P (2000) Introducing Competence-Based Management Development: A Case Study of a University-Hospital Partnership Journal of Workplace Learning 12 (6) Stumpf, S A and Longman, R A (2000) The Ultimate Consultant: Building Long-Term, Exceptional Value Client Relationships Career Development International 5 (3)

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