Very few experienced Human Resource professionals would deny the importance of having a sound management development strategy. Modern learning organizations know that effective management development requires more than formal management training. Simply transferring explicit knowledge is not enough. Yet the components of a successful management development strategy, and the process by which that strategy is derived, are often not as clear to Human Resource professionals as they should be.
To achieve ideal effectiveness, leadership development should be a continuous, ongoing process. While formal management training should not be dismissed, it is most effective when it complements a continuous learning strategy within a learning organization.
The learning organization concept refers to a company that is agile and responsive, and is powered by employees who never stop learning. Beyond the obvious benefit of market durability, learning organizations support professional satisfaction and long-term retention rates in their workforces.
Knowledge acquisition and the creative application of new information are fundamental human endeavors, and the learning organization fosters both, attracting top management talent while continuously developing in-house talent. The optimal leadership development strategy reinforces the continuous learning environment by prioritizing knowledge management and the consistent delivery of formal and informal training.
Formal management training, like traditional classroom learning, confers explicit knowledge or information that can be communicated in words or demonstrated, as well as logically deduced. Until fairly recently, formal management training was used as the sole component of most management development programs. Explicit knowledge is just as important as implicit or tacit knowledge, which is the means by which most employees acquire the bulk of their professional skills and knowledge.
According to a 1998 study conducted by the Education Development Center and confirmed by multiple subsequent studies, informal learning accounts for at least 75% of the learning that takes place in contemporary organizations. Peer-to-peer interactions, informal mentoring and routine communications deliver tacit knowledge. In the initial employee orientation period, informal learning, the employee interacts freely with the trainer and the work environment while practicing essential duties. This establishes employee competency and trainer-trainee trust, both foundational to continuous learning environments.
Once the initial formal management training is complete and an environment favorable to tacit knowledge transfer is in place, the next step is to implement a knowledge management system. As technology becomes capable of delivering information more efficiently, knowledge management becomes more impactful to organizations. Organizations with a strong knowledge management program thrive where others may fail because every employee possesses the right information at the right point in time.
The execution of knowledge management programs can take many forms and is most effective when it fits with the company culture and long-term objectives. The U.S. Army’s After Action Reviews (AARs) and GE’s Corporate Executive Council (CEC) are two prime examples of highly successful, mission-specific knowledge management campaigns. The U.S. Army program classifies post-event scrutiny and information extraction, while GE’s CEC program is a two-day idea-sharing forum.
Many learning organizations use more than one knowledge management strategy, transforming that facet of daily operations with the same fluidity as all the rest. An effective management development strategy continuously evolves as mentors learn from their mentees and shared experience in the ongoing cycle of growth inherently represents the learning organization.