Sometimes I despair and other times I just get frustrated.
I’m part of a team running a long term management development programme for an American company at the moment.
The company is successful, makes profit and has been around for a while. It also has a blame culture and very few high quality managers coming through the ranks – hence the need for the programme.
We went to the states to deliver the first 2 day module, which was nice, but it turned out to be a challenge for all involved. We were working with a group of senior managers who mostly reported into the Board. The MD wants them to take more ownership, to suggest things, to drive forward and all that kind of stuff.
So, in the spirit of taking more ownership we made the first module all about self-determination. We asked questions like, what are you good at, what do you need to improve and what do you need to develop? Followed by, what do you want from us?
And therein our problems germinated. Giving them control over their own development (or, more accurately asking them to take control) made the delegates feel very uncomfortable.
I’m not kidding you, one of them even said to me, ‘Richard, tell me what you want me to learn!’
Another long ‘plane ride for the second module. This time, asked the group, can we have more structure and some techniques for managing people.
Sure, we said, and duly gave them structure and techniques for managing people.
‘But we’ve seen all these before,’ they said at the end of the first day.
And then it dawned on us. There was a manifestation of the blame culture happening before our eyes. The question we asked was this: if you know all these techniques why aren’t you implementing them?
‘Well, we haven’t got the time,’ came the reply.
In that case we have an issue. You could know every management process, technique and trick in the book and it won’t make a blind bit of difference unless you change the way you work to find more time to implement things.
The problem was/is that to make this change will cause a manager to stand out and that means he or she will get noticed which means they might get blamed for something.
Therefore, it’s better to not change, keep things the way they are and be safe. Except of course, they won’t be.
A thorny problem and I’ll keep you posted as to how we get on with modules three and four.