Management Development

Any attempt to improve current or future management performance by imparting knowledge, changing attitudes, or increasing skills.

It’s not always easy to tell where training leaves off and management development begins. The latter, however tends to emphasize longer term development and to focus on developing the capabilities of current or future managers. Management development is an attempt to improve managerial performance by imparting knowledge changing attitudes or increasing skills. The management development process consists of (1) assessing the company’s strategic needs (for instance, to fill future executive openings, or to boost competitiveness), (2) appraising managers’ current performance and then (3) developing the managers (and future managers).

Research Insight:

Employers often talk about the need to shatter the glass ceiling the transparent but often impermeable barrier women face in trying to move to top management. While it makes sense to shatter the glass ceiling for equity’s sake, there may be another reason. With the trend toward high involvement work teams, consensus decision making, and empowerment the sorts of leadership styles that women already exhibit may be much more appropriate than men’s

This conclusion is based on the assumption that female managers’ leadership styles are different than males’ and based on research that appears to be the case. Specifically women scored higher than men on such traditional measures of transformational leadership as encouraging followers to question their old ways of doing things or to break with the past, providing simplified emotional appeals to increase awareness and understanding of mutually desired goals, and providing learning opportunities. Male managers were more likely to commend followers if they complied or to discipline them if they failed.

Succession planning: a process through which senior level openings are planned for and eventually filled.

Some management development programs are company wide and involve all or most new (or potential) managers. Thus, new MBA may join Ford’s management development program and rotate through various assignments and educational experiences. The dual aims are identifying their management potential and giving them breadth of experiences (in, say, production and finance). The firm may then slot superior candidates onto a fast track development program that prepares them more quickly for senior level commands.

Succession planning: A process through which senior level openings are planned for and eventually filled.

Other development programs aim to fill specific top positions such as CEO. Succession planning refers to the process through which a company plans for and fills senior level openings. For example, GE spent several years developing, testing and watching potential replacements for CEO before finally choosing.

The typical succession planning process involves several steps: First anticipate management needs based on strategic factors like planned expansion. Next, review your firm’s management skills inventory (data on things like education and work experience, career preferences and performance appraisals) to assess current talent then, create replacement charts that summarize potential candidates and each person’s development needs. As in an earlier example, the development needs for a future division vice president might include job rotation, executive development programs to provide training in strategic planning and assignment for two weeks to the employer’s in house management development center. Management development can then begin using methods like managerial on the job training discussed.

Assessment is usually part of such manager development programs. At frozen foods manufacturer Schawn, a committee of senior executives first whittles 40 or more candidates down to 10 or less. Then the program begins with a one day assessment by outside consultants of each manager’s leadership strengths and weaknesses. The assessment involves managers addressing a range of problems such as irate customers and employee conflict. The consultants assess leadership competencies. This assessment becomes the basis for each manager’s individual development plan. Action learning projects then supplement individual and group training activities.

An employer’s succession plans and the manager’s performance and potential all influence who is tapped for development. However, bear in mind that some deficiencies are easier to rectify. Knowledge is relatively easy to change for instance through classroom courses, books, and e-learning. Skills and abilities are more difficult but still possible to change, for instance through coaching, mentoring and (for a job abroad) a language immersion program. Changing personality tendencies something else altogether. It’s rare that a simple development course will suffice here, unless it’s a major life altering assignments such as a posting abroad in a radically new culture.