Tweaking a management course

Written by Paul Matthews on 19 November 2014
I was chatting with someone the other day who asked me how she could change her management training programme to make it more effective.
 
She had in mind things like more involved classroom exercises, various accelerated learning tools that she could use in the classroom, and was also wondering how she could extend what happened in the classroom so it had more impact in the workplace. Now, she is an experienced trainer, and this particular management course had been running for several years and had evolved over time with constant improvements. The increase in effectiveness she wanted was unlikely to happen as a result of further tweaks to this particular programme. Something more fundamental would have to change to get any significantly different results.
 
I asked her a bit more about the course itself, and discovered that it was a fairly classic example of its type. It covered all the standard ground you would expect in any typical first time manager course. Indeed, you could see the unbroken lineage back to the 14 principles of management and five functions of management from the theory of management presented by Henri Fayol in 1916. Nothing wrong with that. Even today, many of his ideas have stood the test of time, but what has changed is the culture within which managers operate, and the sophistication of those who are on the receiving end of management activities. 
 
We continued discussing management and its origins, and then I asked her to consider what would change if she thought of management as a service that is provided to people in order to enable them to work effectively.
 
Most people think of management as something that is ‘done to’ others. There is a significant shift in emphasis if you think about management as something that is ‘done for’ others. The concept of servant leadership has been around for some time, but the idea of a manager or supervisor as a servant is something rarely talked about.
 
If you start thinking of management as a service, one of the things that quickly becomes apparent is that to be a good manager you need to want to help people.
 
Clayton Christensen says it best in How Will You Measure Your Life?:
 
“I used to think that if you cared for other people you need to study sociology or something like it… I concluded if you want to help other people, be a manager. If done well, management is among the most noble of professions.”
 
We looked again at the contents of her management course, and realised that in actual fact, little change was needed in terms of the content. The tools, processes, communication skills and other techniques were still just as relevant when thinking of management as a service. What changed was the intent behind the use of those tools and processes. This change in intent had an impact on how you might present those ideas in the classroom, and the stories you might tell about how those ideas and tools could be used most successfully.
 
She asked: “If management is a service to help people, what are we helping them to do?” And then she answered her own question. “We’re helping them do their jobs better, which means we’re helping them to perform better, which means we as managers are being more effective in terms of meeting the goals of the organisation.”
 
She now knows how she is going to tweak a management training programme.
 
About the author
Paul Matthews is the founder of People Alchemy. He can be contacted via www.peoplealchemy.co.uk

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