programme management

Equipping managers to handle a wide of range of challenges

In the absence of an integrated process for development and succession planning, many managers are put in situ with little, if any, development.

While preparing for a presentation recently to a group of managers on change management, I was struck by a quote by Champagne 20021.  It reads…

‘according to management gurus, change is natural, inevitable and urgent and can be brought about by competent, effective leadership…Overall, leaders have to be entrepreneurial, visionary, strategists, daring and even prepared for crisis and opportunity (strategic management model). They have to be forward-looking, and they must program and plan change with care and attention (rational model). They have to be charismatic, astute psychologists who can overcome the resistance of their troops (psychological model). They have to be human, participatory and empowering (organisational development model). They have to prefer flexible structures that can easily accommodate contingencies (structural contingency approach). Lastly, they have to be skilled negotiators who can build winning coalitions (political model)’.

Two questions struck me afterwards; the first, do we really expect our managers to have this array of skills, abilities, knowledge and qualities.  Secondly, how well equipped are managers to handle the range of challenges from basic people management issues to complex change management agendae?

In an ideal world as people climb the management ladder and move from an operational grade to a management one, they would receive training, coaching and mentoring as part of a succession planning process. This would prepare them for the reality of the role they are about to undertake.  When in the role they would receive ongoing competency development and coaching to encourage maximum performance. This integrated process is not beyond the realms of possibility. It is in place in many organisations or at least partly in place in some others.

The ‘suck-it-and-see’ management development process kicks in

Unfortunately, however, this is often the exception rather than the rule.  And in the absence of an integrated process for development and succession planning, many managers are put in situ with little, if any, development.  The ‘suck-it-and-see’ management development process kicks in.  They learn by experience.  Without a basic grounding in management practice, however, the consequences of this haphazard approach to development are often felt immediately on both the team, the new manager, the organisation and of course the patient or service user.  While there are many tasks the new manager can complete, they can very quickly become swamped in paper work, complex people issues, difficult interactions, pressure on resources and challenging senior managers.

What happens to the strategic, empowered, flexible, astute psychologist and esteemed negotiators we need according to Champagne.  They become lost in the role of being a manager doing all the busy things that managers do.

Reflecting back on my initial two questions.  Yes, we often have high expectations for our managers, perhaps not as detailed as outlined by Champagne. Certainly many of the qualities the author refers to are expected.  Some managers have a natural ability in certain areas and others need more education, training and development.  But the bar is often set high.  In terms of being equipped, many managers are and there is certainly plenty of evidence to suggest that there are good managers in all industries.   However, there are still many managers who are not prepared or able to take on the role. This leads to inconsistencies in approach and often tiers of substandard management practice.

So how do we equip our managers and prepare them for the reality of the role they are to undertake? They will learn a lot through experience, but even through this type of learning they need guidance and support.  Sourcing that support can be difficult. Education and training options can be difficult to filter to identify the best one.  Added to this, is the complexity of the business sector itself and the specific challenges it faces now and in the future.

Are you ready to be equipped?