Ask most business leaders what they feel is critical to the success of their organisation, and to the UK economy as a whole, and they'll probably cite high-quality management and leadership. Many will also say these skills are in short supply, and that they're looking to establish new approaches to developing management performance throughout their organisations.
This is despite the fact there has been an explosion of business education over the past 25 years. It is the most popular subject at undergraduate level and more than 100 UK institutions now offer MBA programmes. However, while academic studies are effective in teaching management techniques and tools, another dimension to management involves work- ing with and through others. Managing and leading people also requires skills developed through practice and experience.
Yet nearly half of all junior managers rate the quality of leadership in their organisation as poor, and more than a third of small businesses close within their first three years because of management failings. So the education system, training providers and companies need to face up to the challenge of fostering leadership skills in people at all levels. But we can only do this by valuing the integration of formal and informal learning.
We need to recognise that the education required to develop knowledge and know-how for functional managers is different from that needed to develop motivational or transformational leadership abilities. The value of combining work-based and informal learning with traditional qualifications is slowly being appreciated. We have had vocational qualifications based on nationally recognised standards of competence for more than a decade. Formal training days for managers increased by 18% between 1996 and 2000, and by 25% in smaller organisations.
But this is still not enough to address the scale of our current deficit.
Moreover, there are indications that employers are not sure how qualifications in business management can help people to become better managers.
This conundrum was highlighted in the report of the Council for Excellence in Management and Leadership. A major theme of its analysis is the poor link between demand and supply in management development. And evidence is patchy about the relationship between management performance and the productivity of organisations.
Management has remained the realm of the gifted amateur or the theoretically able. While practitioners in other professions have had to demonstrate both their academic grasp of the subject and their competence on the job, people are often given management responsibility with little or no preparation.
Management capability is still regarded as something to be accumulated throughout a career, rather than as a discrete body of knowledge and skills that can be developed in a planned way. Learning from experience is valuable, but the process must be accelerated if we are to achieve the performance improvements needed.
At the Chartered Management Institute, our mission is to raise standards of management performance and to support the development of individual managers. The grant of a Royal Charter in April recognised management as a valued profession, but there are other challenges in helping employers prepare the managers they'll be needing.
The next stage is the creation of the Chartered Manager Programme. This structured development path will enable qualified managers who demonstrate capability in the workplace to be recognised as truly rounded professionals.
Uniquely, managers will be assessed not simply on their knowledge and experience, but also by colleagues and customers on their practical impact at work. The programme provides an online Continuing Professional Development environment within which they can cultivate the full range of generic management skills. It offers self-assessment tools, signposts learning opportunities and monitors progress. It also provides independent confirmation and affirmation of an individual's management skills, and evidence that those skills are being kept up-to-date.
With this programme, the Institute aims to establish Chartered Manager as a hallmark of current competence and professionalism - the key to future employability. No longer will we be asked: 'What does a good manager look like?' Chartered Manager will provide the template.
To qualify for the programme, candidates must have a degree-level management qualification, three years' practical experience as a manager and be full members of the Institute. To achieve chartered status, they must demonstrate leadership and change management skills, customer focus and the ability to manage knowledge and information. They will have resource and project management skills and be effective communicators, committed to ethical management practice. Above all, they will be able to demonstrate how their skills are bringing direct benefit to their organisations.
Management is an enthralling profession, calling for thinking, practical and people skills. By combining these in an integrated development programme, assessed through evidence from the workplace, we may increase the number of professional managers and raise our performance to world-class level.