Sunday, 2 December 2007

Changes in management training

While archaeologists have in general avoided management training, there has been a quiet revolution in the nature of that training. In the 1980s, it was about processes and structures, decision making and critical path analysis. As such it was essentially mechanistic: problems were defined as administrative, technical or organisational issues.

This was fine as far as it went, but rather lacked the human dimension. In response to the disjuncture between the difficulties managers faced in the workplace and the solutions being offered, there emerged a spate of books like Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson's The One Minute Manager (1982) and Mark McCormack's What They Don't Teach You At Harvard Business School: Notes From A Street-Smart Executive (1986) which addressed the reality of working better within a system that was effectively fixed.

The shift towards soft skills is now reflected in training. The key words now are empowerment, consensus building, and fostering creativity. The MBA course at Bath University includes ethics and action learning alongside its more conventional content. One result of this shift is a focus on the actor as agent, on how you personally influence outcomes. Therefore, rather than proposing the restructuring of organisations, the achievable objective is to change oneself. This may be defined very broadly, taking in improving personal effectiveness by using tools and promoting self-management, but also covers attitudes, beliefs and social skills.

It has been estimated that the balance between 'people work' and 'tasks' is something like:
Executives: 80% people; 20% tasks
Senior Managers: 65% people; 35% tasks
Middle Managers: 50% people; 50% tasks
Operatives: 15% people; 85% tasks
(Source: PSMW Leading for Wales Directory 07/08 [very large pdf])

Purely on this basis, middle managers who ignore the importance of interaction with people are going to fail.

It is interesting to see that the Archaeology Training Forum's Roles and Skills project (2002) identify core skills needed by archaeologists:

* Manage team (by talking to people)
* Manage projects (by talking to people)
* Manage and develop yourself
* Develop and promote the organisation (by talking to people)
* Resource and control finances

Thus personal development should not be seen as a matter of an individual's career progression: it lies at the centre of their professional performance.

I would recommend A manager’s guide to self-development by Mike Pedler, John Burgoyne and Tom Boydell, as an excellent place to start.

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