Management Development

Two months ago Rob Mulder reported on LinkedIn that the stubbornness by which organisations hold on to their budgets for MD programmes surprised him. They even increase these budgets, although large-scale international research has shown that MD-programmes do not meet expectations, according to many managers and HRM officers. How much longer will we continue with something that does not work, he wonders

I was surprised by the limited number of reactions to his suggestion that MD has actually gone bankrupt. Just two members of the news group Management & Organisation responded. One of them was pleased with the ‘posting’ of the statement. Another one tried to answer the question presented by Mulder. There were no other declarations of support or objections. This is astonishing, as I assume that the majority of the members of this news group make a living one way or another by ‘developing’ managers, HRM professionals, trainers and training counsellors.

There would certainly have been more reactions if Mulder’s complaint had been made in a news group for managers. I think that more members would have taken the trouble to leave a note behind. I suspect that the reactions would have been about “the time consuming stay at meeting halls and conference rooms”, about “the ever more of the same”, about “the impractical courage of Mandela, Ghandi, some mountaineer or other, or someone who lowers himself naked into a cube filled with ice-cubes”, or about the “endless lack of insight among the ‘higher management and/or course instructors’ about what is happening on the shop floor or simply within the organization”, etc. No doubt there would also have been a few reactions from leaders indicating “that (in spite of everything) you still take something away from it”.

We undoubtedly have to do here with one of those many (HRM) mechanisms that have become part of organisations over the past few decades. Mechanisms that (no longer) work, but which are maintained by organisations, yet also by HR professionals, instructors, trainers  counsellors.

There is a crisis. This is a time where those who can be held responsible for the experienced discomfort are critically assessed. The way financial debts find their way to the culprits, the blame for possible inefficient  and impractical “development” of leaders will find its way to the HR officers, instructors, trainers, coaches, and counsellors. There is no reason for not taking part of this blame. Its burden will feel less heavy if the current time, the social and economic situation and their effect on leaders and staff is given some thought in the meantime. Consider the help one can offer organisations and leaders to solve the real problems they face these days, simply matters that arise on the shop floor. I recommend putting the concept of ‘development’ on hold for a while and to subject phantasies surrounding ‘management development’ to critical reflection.

You can download the research from my website.

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