I was excited to see an article on management development in the most recent issue of the Academy of Management Journal (AMJ), one of the highest quality research journals in the field. The study involved 215 junior level managers and their supervisors. The well designed study looked at how the developmental quality of managerial assignments and the learning goal orientation of the mangers affected mangers’ end-state competencies.
Developmental managerial assignments allow young managers to assume unfamiliar responsibilities, develop new directions, address challenging problems, handle external pressure, work with diverse employees, influence without authority, and make high stakes decisions that affect numerous products or services.
Learning goal orientation assessed the extent to which the junior managers actively sought opportunities to develop new skills and knowledge.
Mangers’ end-state competencies assessed things like broad business knowledge, the courage to take a stand, the ability to bring out the best in people, the ability to act with integrity, risk taking, sensitivity to cultural differences, insightfulness, and commitment to success.
Here is a summary of their findings:
- Managers in developmental assignments achieve higher levels of managerial competencies.
- Managers with higher levels of a learning goal orientation are more likely to be in developmental assignments, especially when managers perceive that they have access to on-the-job opportunities.
- Managers with a strong learning goal orientation gain more competencies from developmental assignments.
The suggestions for aspiring managers are to seek developmental assignments and other work experiences that can contribute to their long term growth. The advice for organizations is that by identifying individuals with a stronger learning goal orientation and placing them in developmental assignments, they may be able to accelerate managerial development.
Is there really anything radically new here? Aren’t these practices that leading edge organizations have already implemented?
I am a HUGE supporter of evidence-based management, but I find it difficult to advocate when the relevance of the best research often lags the contemporary practice of management. Perhaps the role of scientific management research is more to confirm, explain, and document contemporary practice than to discover and develop new models of management.