Learning Managers of Today – Victims of the Buzz or True Champions of OD?

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Human beings, being social creatures, get easily attracted to often intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something. The buzzword in corporate now is OD. In a refreshing though gradual departure from the ‘Training is Time Pass’ to ‘Learning is Business’ mindset, executives are missing the forest for the trees. But where does that leave the Learning Manager? Indications are that there is a lot happening around the execution of training initiatives – unlike sometime back when classrooms were seen as safe houses for poor performers and Trainers as their guards, playing the second-fiddle in the organization, if not anything else.

Technology’s arrogance that it alone can deliver the demands of Cost, Quality, Service & Speed in business have proved to be a tall claim that business managers could not finally settle. Business pressures led to realizations in chorus that Process cannot be seen in isolation of People. And so came the holy consciousness that Companies doing business has to be seen and treated as Organizations run by People.

Organization Development (OD) is undoubtedly a welcome idea to the Leaders and Managers, particularly of those entities who are keen to strengthen their resolve – never to become a Texaco, Enron or even for that matter the Indian watch maker, HMT. Yet, what is happening in the name of OD? Where is the Strategy? If learning is an integral part of business – for the people, by the people and of the people, can it continue to stay alive and breathe life into the mainstream organization without a systemic approach and a Learning Management Vision & Strategy? Unfortunately that’s what is happening. Adhocism in the area of OD is giving feeble or no results. Organizations are often seen to be investing a lot of money in the so-called Training & Development activities, in peace-meals, focusing acutely on the accomplishment of targeted learning man-days! That’s exactly the scenario when they are counting trees but have no idea of how the forest looks like. The hyper-focused approach on the training deliveries have taken the eye off the larger goals of the organization, which OD was supposed to help accomplish as an enabler. Learning professionals are falling prey to this. When happiness of accomplishments exists around adhocisms in learning – a Learning Manager must wake up to the clarion call.

Learning managers must ensure that training and development activities in the organization are the subset of the overall OD strategy. They do disservice to the organization, should they miss to integrate the training calendar to the larger OD Strategy and the disservice is not only to the organization but to themselves too, in their professional practice. It may be pertinent to note that the OD strategy is the mother of all the training and development related activities and that the calendar cannot be emerging from nowhere. The mandate here is to draw together the strategic objectives, priorities by way of a meticulous diagnosis of the business challenges in the organization and how OD can aid the fulfillment of those, as its own goals. T&D is one of the means to fulfill the OD strategy and not an integrative strategy in itself. Significantly important is to note that all training and development in the organization, as a subset of OD, must cater to address the challenges ever emerging due to the constant changes that the organization is going through. Needless to mention that change being the only constant – is a common ecosystem for every kind of business and thus dedicated strategic focus on OD becomes less of a choice for any organization and its learning manager, irrespective of its size and business that it is in.

This refers to a broad key responsibility area of the Learning Manager. To follow the diagnosis and deliberately plan and embark upon enterprise wide endeavors, with training activities only as one of the initiatives, to increase the organization’s effectiveness, efficiency and overall readiness to battle the weathers of change. The Learning Manager must have a long range, long term holistic and multi faceted approach to help the organization achieve transformational change through its people. Being sensitive to the above responsibilities helps the Learning Manager fall prey to the deceptive trap of adhocism.

The Learning Manager’s plate is still not full… The lack of a robust measurement system could be his potential derailment factor. Having measuring systems, processes, benchmarks and controlling through a PERT gives handles to measure OD efforts and helps cover some distance on measuring otherwise debatable aspect of ‘effectiveness’. An organized, scientific and empirical approach taken by Learning Managers for all OD efforts helps him or her to co-relate the OD interventions to business results, highlight areas for future investments, and also to justify budget allocations. If learning is business, the Learning Managers better be more accountable for how the booty is spent within their organizations.

Lets all not lose the forest for the trees…the traps are many.

© Copyright Satyakki Bhattacharjee 2014

Design Approaches to Advance Leadership Development Program Interventions

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In my previous post I had talked about the use of the ‘Know, Do, Be’ model as an approach for Basic Leadership Development. The next iteration in the area of Leadership Development requires discussing, what could constitute an Advance Leadership Development Program,

In Basic Leadership Programs the objective is to tell the incumbent participant about the ‘pre-requisites’ that constitutes Leadership. Pre-requisites refer to preliminary necessary critical behaviors that could barely make a person begin to exhibit signs and symptoms of Leadership Behavior. These are essential components without which a leader can’t be termed as a Leader.

When moving towards Advanced Leadership Development, the focus is on the ‘Be’. In a way, in the Advanced Leadership Program, the incumbent is equipped with the awareness of the several broad long term strategic intents and roles that a leader may have and choices are laid out to pick one that he or she would like to take up in the long run.

Around these, the domain of Advanced Leadership runs on the axis having Situational at one end and Transactional on the other end.

Approaches to Situational Leadership Development

Situational Leadership proposes that effective leaders must have a rationally balanced understanding of the circumstance to respond appropriately. The essence of Situational Leadership is that of Task Orientation. When designing a Situational Leadership Program, enough emphasis must be laid upon the Leadership Style and to link the Style to create an appropriate Climate that facilitates Task Accomplishments.

Since effective Situational Leaders are those who are high on achieving task
accomplishments, any program or intervention to develop Situational Leaders must have modules that cover giving definite instructions, learning structured methods of communication, learning to understand and interpret operational climate dimensions to integrate Product-Services Goals and Processes of the organization.

Such an intervention is expected to have learning inputs around Communication Styles, understanding critical behaviors that characterize Task Oriented Competencies and components of Time Management besides offering other Models, Matrix and Methodology of task accomplishment like Project Management. The criteria to choose these modules are that all of them contribute towards developing the incumbent into a Production-Oriented leader with a Directive approach.

Approaches to Transformational Leadership Development

Transformational Leadership has been ‘the single most studied and debated idea within the field of Leadership’ (Diaez-Saenz, 2011). In the leadership body of knowledge, many instances of business leaders’ turnaround success, middle management effectiveness, charisma-based leadership is attributed to Transformational Leadership.

Transformational Leadership is all about becoming an influencer, having people to follow and in the process scaling up the consciousness level of the followers about the significance and value of desired outcomes and the methods of achieving such resultant.

In organizations, Transformational Leaders are those leaders who are able to influence the team members to rise above their self-level interests and goals in the interest of the organization while also, as a parallel, satisfying the needs of the team members progressively elevating on the Maslow’s Motivational Pyramid.

In this context, Diversity acceptance, Multi-cultural Adaptability and Acceptance, certain Personality Traits and being high on Emotional Intelligence are essential competency areas for Leadership Development.

Contrary to Production Orientation, the focus of the design of the Transformational Leadership Development Intervention must focus on developing the People Orientation of the incumbents. The interventions to develop Transformational Leadership must also focus on and be inclusive of such components that go to develop the individual’s ‘Consideration and Participative’ approach rather than ‘Production and Directive’ approach.

In a way, while Situational Leadership concerns more with the competence of effectively maintaining the day-to-day business operations and “keeping the ship up-float”, Transformational Leadership transcends beyond the daily operational activities and formulates strategies for the organization to move to the higher orders of performance and achievements.

Thus, when designing modules of Transformative Leadership Development – Modules on People Development and Team Building, understanding Motivational Aspects and Orientation of Human Behavior, Collaborative Influencing, System Thinking, Change Management and Constructive Conflict Management are key ingredients.

A psychometric at the beginning of the intervention or program, capturing raw data of original state and extent of “As Is” orientation of the incumbent, always helps the OD Professional to design the intervention in such a way, that best helps to achieve the desired state and extent of orientation in the “To Be” state.

Are Organizations also in a way “Beings”?

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Organizations are also in a way ‘Beings’.  The elements of Individuals, Groups and their Commonness of Purpose at the core of the organization go to indicate that Experiences, Feelings, Needs, Beliefs and Desires are very integral to an organization.  Almost every organization is a harbor where feelings, experiences, needs beliefs and desires are generated and exchanged.  These co-exist along with the central philosophy of dispassionate objectivity with which these organizations are governed.Practitioners involved with organizations and their development would agree that behind every objective process, there is a human process that has considerable influence mutually.  The technical processes are often measured and audited.  However, not many organizations pay enough attention or take notice of the unseen under-currents of human processes that impact the organization.

In a way an organization though is not analyzable as a single entity having its independent psyche; it has a unified psyche as a resultant of the collective exchange of human processes and patterns of perceptions of the several members in several roles.

It is the presence of this objectivity and the features of unseen but covertly present human processes – an organization entitles to be recognized as a Being.

Effective organizations are ones where operational leaders are not a bunch of numerous bewildered seekers, erroneously seeking organizational excellence only through objective processes but are the ones where the Leaders and the Managers pay heed to the unseen dynamics and parallel processes that are present in their organization but are not available to them for a ready surface level introspection.

Often, they are trained themselves or are aided by hired OD consultants to unearth these processes.  Unearthed because, the primary characteristic of these dynamic and parallel processes is that it is not Conscious and therefore, lies outside the purview of conscious awareness.  Organizations become effective when such Leaders and Managers heed to the Unconscious Processes as warning signals.  That they should work upon or as motivators that they should drive upon.

© Satyakki Bhattacharjee 2014