Theory versus Application: Supervisory Management Programmes

Many people pine for simpler times. Days when we were less anxious and perhaps not as attached to smartphones. When millennials were still children and Donald Trump wasn’t president.

However, there was an old school method of education that H-Training is very happy to have seen the back off. Does anyone remember their highly qualified lecturers with an alphabet of letters after their names, moving a piece of paper down along an acetate on an overhead projector as an entire lecture hall scribbled away for dear life? Well if you don’t, you are lucky. This was how the ‘establishment’ used to disseminate information. And not that long ago. An entire hour could be dedicated to the relaying of information. There was no practice, discuss or exploration of the subject, just basic knowledge fattening, the majority of which languished in notebooks until exam time came around.

However, we now live in an information age (you could even argue we have lived through two of them at this stage) where, although content is King, information is treated as disposable. The practices described above seem laughable now, when all you have to do is Google and not only will you find an infinity of links to what you are looking for, but perhaps a pdf containing the entire body of work ever written on the subject. However, in some walks of education information is brought to life and enlivened by challenging the theories and asking the students for their input and experience. But sadly, this is not always the case.

In a recent review of Supervisory Management and First-Line management courses being offered in H-Training’s base of Cork City, it was surprising to find that many of these courses advertise on the basis of more information. We don’t want to sound like we are saying theories are bad, because we use them too and they are an excellent means of inspiring honest reflection. But what about the application of these theories to real-life practices and the everyday challenges that managers face? Often the idea that they can reference something like the Chaos theory in the middle of a situation as though it were a red telephone is laughable.

In our consultancy work, when we ask managers about the training they have received, we often hear about the notes being at homes somewhere. Notes at home are no good to someone dealing with reality in the workplace. So what are we saying here?

H-Training’s process is about developing people to address an organisation’s concerns today. In a nutshell, it is about you and not us. We begin with the challenges the manager is currently facing and build solutions to these problems by integrating the theories into practice. Our programmes are divided up over the course of a series of weeks in order to give the participants the chance to practice and reflect on the approaches suggested. By doing so they return to the training with their own feedback on how successful they were. This often gives us a clear understanding of what the obstacles are and furthermore challenge managers to address the issues head on. Furthermore, we partner with our participants own managers in order to close the feedback loop and clearly assess the situation and identify where there is room for progress and development. In this work we have often been successful in identifying structural or cultural shortfalls that may be contributing to areas of under-performance.

The question many people ask is why more organisations don’t practice this style of management development and the answer is simple. It is much easier to unthinkingly churn out content and have everyone scribbling than it is to get into the details and challenge people to grow. Furthermore, if you are a full-time academic, what experience have you of the challenges of industry in the everyday world? We are not big fans of criticism for criticisms sake, but it is our experience that dynamic and effective practice will always be more impactful than staid navel gazing and notes gathering dust somewhere at home.

H-Training is a premium learning and development organisation based in Cork, Ireland but in operation internationally.

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