Management Development Training – The Key To Success

Let’s start with a fairly well accepted definition of Management Development. ‘ Management Development is the process by which managers learn and improve their management skills.’

So it is a process for learning and improvement and Management Development Training is a summary term given to that process. No surprises so far!

The surprise is that so many organisations are not very good at this development process. Why is this, and what are the key issues to be addressed in the successful implementation of Management Development Training Programs? Well this is what this blog is about.

There are five key issues to consider. They are:

1 Alignment to Organisation Development

2 Stakeholder Commitment

3 Resource Investment

4 Culture Fit

5 Measurement of Economic Benefit

I will take each in turn.

1. Alignment to Organisation Development

There are eight main reasons why organisations develop successfully. They are:

– They have a clear vision of future success

– They have clear and measurable growth objectives

– They have chosen the right strategy to deliver longer term success

– They have the right quantity and quality of resources to deliver the strategy

– They operate with efficient and effective internal structures

– They constantly upgrade their IT systems, working processes and practices

– They give their employees the knowledge and skills to contribute to the organisation’s success

– They operate in line with a carefully chosen culture and values

– They develop their managers at all levels to deliver success in each of the above areas.

So the first key issue to address is, ‘ Has the organisation attended to, or is attending to, the seven major contributors to its ongoing successful development BEFORE it considers the key issue of Management Development Training?’

If it hasn’t then no amount of Management Training is going to make any difference to its corporate success. Mangement Development Training HAS to be aligned to Organisation Development. That is why it is the eigth contributor in the list above. Management Development is a key determinant of an organisation’s success. If this is to be the case it must be aligned to the organisation’s stage of development.

Management training for management training’s sake is simply a waste of time and money.

2. Stakeholder Commitment

As with anything that matters to an organisation, and therefore becomes a reality, Management  Development Training must have the commitment of key stakeholders. These include:

– The owners of the business, the shareholders.

– The CEO and Board of Directors

– Senior Management

– Middle Managers and below

– HR Managers/Business Partners and Training/Learning and Development Specialists

So how do these key stakeholders demonstrate their commitment to Management Development Training? Here are some thoughts:

– The owners of the business, the shareholders, need to communicate that those responsible for preparing the Annual Report and Accounts, and other investor communications, include an overview of management skills training carried out over the last financial period. They need to ensure that the outside world see the importance the organisation attaches to management development and how it has effected corporate results.

– The CEO and Board of Directors need to ensure that the topic of management development is included at each board meeting and progress in this area is reported on and noted along with its contribution to financial results.

– Senior management need to work closely, as the business leaders in the organisation, with the organisation’s HR Business Partners and its Learning and Development specialists to provide an input into management development needs and priorities to ensure complete alignment of programs with the vision, objectives and strategy of the business. They need to create and/or sign off the budget which should grow as the business grows.

– Middle managers and below need to buy into management development of themselves and their direct reports. They need to deliver on their own personal develoment plans and ensure that those they manage do as well. They should have performance objectives for management development training and coaching which they must meet.

– HR Managers/Business Partners and Learning and Development Specialists need to ensure that they are up to date with management development best practices and that they introduce them into the organisation. They must be able to link these to achieving competitive advantage and commercial success for the business.

A passing comment – I know of very few organisations that do all of the above well!

3. Resource Investment.

Organisations which deliver the sought-after results of management development trainingunderstand how best to blend the use of internal and external contributors.

Internal contributors these days usually include courses and programs of courses, workshops, job rotation, secondments, coaching/mentoring from internal managers, assessment and development centres, and online/distance learning.

External contributors usually include part time/full time MBAs, other business school programs, other programs (full and part time) linked or not linked to qualifications, coaching/mentoring from external specialists, and use of virtual learning environments.

The blend of these different management development training opportunities is largely dependent on the size, shape and geographical locations of the business. The optimum blend is the one which best supports career development and succesion planning in the organisation.

And so to the next key issue.

 4. Culture Fit

An organisation’s culture can play a big part in the approach an organisation takes to management development.

Large, hierarchical organisations operating in pyramid shaped structures tend to have a very formalised approach to management development. There tends to be a structured training program for each level of manager based on the competency requirements of each management level. The system used is designed to ensure the promotion of the best internal candidates.

Those organisations which work in a more collegiate fashion (e.g. in the education sector) tend to be flexible around the use of management development practices which are more aligned to individuals than the organisation as a whole. Hence they may well use external resources more than internal ones.

Organisations which work in matrix, complex and often international/global environments, with a lot of culture differences, tend to use programs cutomised to their needs and delivered by the faculty of external institutions either in-house or on site at the institution itself.

Small and medium sized businesses, very often family-owned, per force tend to use external providers of training and coaching as well as online learning resources. Cost plays a big part in those they choose to use.

These, of course, are generalisations and I am only pointing to trends I have seen which stem largely from the belief system (culture and values) they live by.

There are many different types of organisation in addition to those I have mentioned above and my only point is that culture will play a part in their approach to management development training.

5. Measurement of Economic Benefit.

Contrary to the belief of some it is possible to put economic measures to the effects of management development training in an organisation.

There are three broad measures you can use:

– Improved outcomes

– Impact of behavioural change

– Altered perceptions of key influencers

I will briefly consider each in turn.

Improved Outcomes

As a result of the training you can certainly use numeric measures to assess improvement in tangible results achieved by the individual, his/her team/department and the organisation as a whole

.Measures typically include increase in sales and customers, reduced costs, improved margins/profitability, increased efficiency/productivity, improved returns on investment, speed of growth, increase in market share, improved supplier performance and many others which may be very specific to the organisation and its business. Indeed, these targeted outcomes should form a substantial part of the training objectives!

Impact of behavioural change

Another way of assessing the economic benefit of management development is that of observed behavioural change for the better. Hence the reasons why organisations are so keen to use competency frameworks to measure behavioral change and knowledge/skill development.

However, behaviour change needs to be attached to an improved outcome not just stated as an observation. If someone is exhibiting a better leadership style as a result of training, then measure the effect of that change on the bottom line e.g. X now demonstrates a really collaborative leadership style which has resulted in her team exceeding their target by 50% and resulting in a saving of £100,000 to the company in this financial year.

Management development programs not only need to be seen to bring about behavioural change but to link that change to commercial outcomes which can be used to prove the return on investment.

Altered perceptions of key influencers

If a management development training program is really making a contribution to the commercial success of a business it can be measured by the perceptions of others.

Who are these others? They are key influencers such as journalists, opinion leaders, the media, investors and other external subject matter experts who can either destroy the value of a business or greatly enhance it.

How can you put value to the altered perceptions of these important influencer? Quite simply by linking their subjective and objective perceptions (truths to them) to the outcomes they generate such as increase in stock value, increased product/service pricing, effects of improved social responsibility contribution, the go ahead to expansion plans from regulators and many others. So instead of a management development objective for the company as a whole being expressed as’ improved reputation and standing in our market-place ‘ it should read on to say ‘ such that each quarterly review of results by the press reults in more institutional investment.’

Again the message is that if you are going to include an imrovement in the largely subjective views of key influencers you must measure the economic value of thes cahanged views.


Address the five key issues above and you will ensure that management development training is always aligned to your organisation’s organasition development which quite simply is its primary purpose.