One has to congratulate business in recent years for investing more in its employees in terms of management development training there has been a noticeable increase but could the strategies deployed be questioned?
This after the shock of the global financial crisis in 2007 where many were effected and some businesses struggled to survive and ultimately collapsed. The crisis brought about major structural changes in Australian business never encountered before.
Two of the key changes have been the rationalisation of organisations with the resultant downsizing of employees. Secondly another feature has been the elimination of many middle management positions, this coupled with the introduction of technology presented significant challenges for managing companies.
Many employers took the decision to “let go” more experienced managers and take a gamble that younger staff could step up and fill those management roles; to be fair not a bad plan having an eye on the future and their ability in understanding the new technology platforms that were emerging.
A major flaw in that thinking became evident when it became clear huge tracts of IP were lost including a wealth of experience of products and services knowledge. A company’s resources to guide and mentor younger members of staff became limited due to the new slimmed down structures. The evidence suggests organisations have become exposed and operations hampered due to highly inexperienced staff managing people.
A strategy employed has been the rush to fast track managers to become instant leaders ignored the fact that it takes time and perhaps the pressure of our modern business environment is taking its toll on employee’s motivation to become leaders due to the amount and complexity of the issues they may have to deal with. The necessity to having a broad understanding of business issues is essential and it is hard conceive that this could have been achieved under those circumstances.
Although there has been a plethora of programs available for leadership development perhaps their design and delivery do not cater for today’s era. Feedback from senior executives suggest they are not obtaining the results they had envisaged and are looking for alternatives.
It is not that efforts being expended are negative they are to be commended but it feels as though we are trying to effect change at a million miles an hour and we all know that this process has historically questionable outcomes when dealing with people given this approach.
On the point of us not trying hard enough, one of the claims being directed at the older generation relates to the accusation that we are not listening to what our managers are telling us. The feedback now constantly being received is that the command and control era is over and as such any development programs must include content ideas on collaboration and how training can be delivered. This may account for why we are experiencing growing conflict between managers and executives, which needs to be tackled and resolved.
On the horizon one can see further difficult challenges for Australian business including further exposure to global markets, can we honestly answer the question “Have we done enough to start preparing managers for future leadership for what is quickly becoming a reality”?
I leave it to you to make that “call”

Ken Wood *
*Ken Wood is a people specialist, interventionist and educator with 30 years’ experience working and living in over 33 different countries