Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Do managers matter? - using data to make the case

Over the past few months I've been commenting on leadership behaviours blog link and the qualities of effective managers blog link.  And so I read with interest the piece in the December 2013 edition of HBR 'How Google Sold Its Engineers on Management' by David A. Garvin. (Reprint R1312D)

What's interesting about this piece is not so much the conclusions reached about what Google's best managers do, but the ways in which these were validated by employee research.

Do managers matter?

In an organisation dedicated to being a company built by engineers for engineers, there was an instinctive belief that management might be more destructive than beneficial; a distraction from the real work of problem solving.  Indeed, so uncertain were they about the value of managers, they experimented with a completely flat organisation, eliminating engineering managers.  The experiment lasted only a few months when too many people were going to the CEO with questions about expense reports, interpersonal conflicts and other nitty-gritty issues.  And then there were the contributions that managers made to communicating company strategy and policy, prioritising resources, facilitating career development, etc.

What do good managers do?

Here's the list developed from studying, coding and processing qualitative comments from thousands of employee surveys, performance reviews and submissions for the organisaton's great manager award. 
  1. Is a good coach
  2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage
  3. Expresses interest in and concern for team members' success and personal well-being
  4. Is productive and results-oriented
  5. Is a good communicator - listens and shares information
  6. Helps with career development
  7. Has a clear vision and strategy for the team
  8. Has key technical skills that help him or her advsie the team
No surprises but the list resonated because it was based on Google data.  The behaviours emerged from what was already happening and working, bottom-up.  This contrasts starkly with the top-down approach on which I have commented previously. 

Things that I noticed...

Small incremental increases in manager quality were quite powerful

Through the application of statistical techniques, the researchers were able to show how even small differences in manager performance against the eight behaviours reduced employee turnover and improved retention as well as greater satisfaction in areas like innovation, work-life balance and career development.

A common language and agenda for improvement

The behaviours served three important functions:
  1. A shared vocabulary for discussing management.  The behaviours primarily describe leaders of small and medium sized teams and are especially relevant to first and second level management.
  2. Clear guidelines for how to improve it - through use of verbatim examples of best practices from the survey participants
  3. Encapsulated the full range of management responsibilites; from strategy development to delivering results

Practice-based learning

Google has put in place practice-based training, e.g. 'hands-on' exercises based on the actual things that managers need to do, plus piloting online Google Hangout sessions so that managers from around the world can participate and panel discussions featuring high-scoring managers from each function.

Understanding management...going deeper into the data

Google has taken a very interesting step towards using data to understand what managers do and what effect differences in relative performance have on a range of employee measures, most of which are intangible. But, as the article admits, the causal relationships between employee satisfaction and the bottom-line are difficult to establish.

As I have written about on several previous occasions, management work remains understudied.  Even Google's approach here misses and glosses over the detail of the intricate interactional work that takes place second by second in the workplace.  Ethnographic methods that observe managers working would provide a rich source of new information, something that Google themselves recognise and the research team have started to do.  The work by Sociometric Solutions at MIT is showing how technology can help get at this data (featured in the April 2012 edition of HBR 'The New Science of Building Great Teams' pages 59-70).  And maybe what will eventually be possible are other tools that can show not only generalised behavioural characteristics but detailed interactional data maps - see my Mapping social settings blog for further observations about this.

Friday, 22 November 2013

What am I noticing?...about blogging

There are many reasons why people blog: demonstrating expertise, sharing knowledge, self-promotion, as an aid to learning and so on. 

I think these are some of the reasons why I blog too but there's also some other things that I notice about myself when engaging with the process of blogging.

The discipline of feeding the blog with copy

My self-imposed goal is that I will write something at least once a month.  The discipline to keep the blog alive is a powerful enabler for me, especially the closer I get to the end of the month.  The timeline gives a kind of structure to my learning that I might otherwise let slip.

What am I noticing?

To write something I must find something that's of interest to my practice.  I ask myself the question 'What am I noticing?' and 'What am I paying attention to?' in whatever I am doing.  What I notice is that there is always something, in these fragments of reflections, that sparks an idea.  I like the ways in which this makes my learning feel constantly renewed.

Walking the talk

I feel a strong sense of 'walking the talk' of personal responsibilty for learning, through my management development practice and blogging is one way in which I can show this.  I am encouraged to keep going when people tell me that they value what I am sharing.

A place for reflection

Like everybody else, my day-to-day life is full of interactions and it's not easy keeping track of or making sense of what it is I am learning. The permanent recording of my interests in the flow of time provides me with a place for reflection and something that I find really helpful.

Useful links

I've added below a few links about blogging which I hope are of some use.

Internal blogging is good for your career - 7 Ways Internal Blogging Can Help Your Career link 

How writing a blog can make you a better manager link

Are you a Sketchy Google Plusser?link

Note taking on steroids link

Blogs - creating shattering masterpieces or a foundation for creativity? link

Monday, 28 October 2013

How should your leaders behave ?

'How should leaders behave?' is the title of a brief article that appeared in HBR October 2013 (reprint F131OE).

Reading it I found myself feeling irritated by the nature of its prescriptions:

'We had to put the focus on the behaviours we expected leaders to display, and those had to be spelled out by the top team that was highly engaged, intellectually and emotionally, in the process.'
What's going on here that makes the writer so sure that this was the right approach and that some level of coercion was required to make the ideas stick.

The 'no alternative' problem

The article expresses a point of view that's commonly found in management development literature: that there is a tacitly stated ‘no alternative’ and that, as the article goes on to infer, adherence is mandatory.  This is backed up by a starkly stated comment:

'...we found ways to foster behaviours using evaluations, surveys, communications and highly visible actions by leaders - including occasional dismissal for consistent and significant violations'
Interesting.  This is the same organisation that was attempting to use behaviours to build, develop and lead empowered and diverse teams.  

What's being taken for granted?  

I have a concern with how the behavioural standards came into being, typical no doubt of how other organisations do this too.  I noticed that the author wanted to emphasise how the top team had been given the chance to explore and challenge the language used in the descriptors.  This privileged the top team and treated them as separate from others in the organisation who would also be expected to adopt the behaviours.  Taken at face value, this set up an approach that felt quite cult-like, almost like commandments from a higher authority.   This may or may not have been intentional, but the effect might have been to have reinforced the status quo of how things get done in that organisation rather than enabling it to respond to growth and change.

Management 'science'

Organisations use behavioural frameworks because I think they like the patina of objectivity which they offer in the tricky process of measuring and rewarding not just what gets done, but also how things get done.  But this is problematical because organisational life is dynamic.

I'm not against behavioural frameworks as such because I think they do provide some helpful clarifications of what's expected.  And behaviours are probably most useful as a means of calibration in those situations that require a snapshot of performance, e.g. for recruitment or talent spotting.  But in the day-to-day work of management my sense is that they are much less effective because, however well drafted and communicated, they are treated as being separate from, rather than integrated with, the work itself.    

Organisations and organisational life is full of paradoxes 

Organisations are awash with paradoxes and contradictions.   For managers and leaders, who are required to manage the performance of the organisation, this is especially complicated.  To illustrate, they must continually:

  • divide up complex tasks to enable them to get done, but at the same time ensure that the outputs are integrated
  • deliver results personally and collaborate to get things done
  • maintain continuity and innovate
  • create order and experiment
  • plan and react
  • control and empower  
And perhaps the most striking paradox in the HBR article is that leaders should display the prescribed behaviours and capitalise on individual styles.  This feels like a 'have your cake and eat it' problem.

It is how we relate with others that matters

The purpose in writing this blog is to explore the paradoxes in play and to think about what this might mean for management learning.  

For me, the heart of the matter is the need for each of us to pay close attention to how we interact with each other.  We might try to boil this down to a set of five to ten behaviours but if we approach it this way we deflect ourselves from paying close attention to what's really going on in any two-way process of communication.

What I'm pointing to is that there are diverse ways of relating to others, behaviours if you want to describe it this way, but these ways of relating will always be situational based on who's involved, the task and the cultural and societal norms of that organisation or group.   The fact is that we are human beings, not machines.  We come with our own unique styles and strengths and what's more important is that each person takes seriously the pros and cons of how they relate with other people rather than attempting to display behaviours annointed by others.  In my experience, the reward for doing so is better self awareness as to what works, more confidence in playing to strengths and, therefore, better quality relationships.       

Concluding thoughts

My sense is that the views expressed in the HBR article describe an approach that is neither desirable nor appropriate for today's business environment.  The greater complexity in organisations today means that we need people, regardless of their level of responsibility, who can think for themselves, who can act as part of a community and who have very good self awareness.  This is even more important for managers because of the influence that they have over others through their roles.  It follows that we need approaches to development that encourage a much greater sense of inquiry, openness and collaboration and much less that is directed and top-down. 

My work on the NODES model sets out an approach for development that pays attention to these ideas.  You can read more about them either in my blog or by going to my presentation on  SlideShare 



Wednesday, 25 September 2013

11 Qualities of the Effective Manager and their sources of learning

This model was developed by John Burgoyne and Roger Stuart at Lancaster University in the 1970s.  The write up of their research is buried in a long-since-forgotten paper published in 1976.  If you are interested in their research there is a chapter about the 11 qualities in the book A Managers Guide to Self Development.  This deals solely with the qualities and not the sources of management learning. It's their research on how managers have acquired the skills and other attributes, described in the model, which I have found of most interest.  I've summarised their findings here. 

Sources of Managerial Skill Development

Two methods were used to ascertain the sources of learning. Firstly, a critical incidents interview technique with 28 managers and secondly, using the data emerging from the interviews, via questionnaires distributed to over 100 managers from a variety of organisations.

In essence the question being asked was something like 'tell me about something that is critical to your role that you do well, and then describe how you have learnt to do this?'  

The nine sources

This produced nine learning sources, ranked here in order of importance

  1. Doing the job - the tasks and skills of management picked up as they go along
  2. Non-company education - graduate and post-graduate studies at universities and business schools
  3. Living - the learning experience of life itself
  4. In-company training - one-off seminars to structured programmes of management training
  5. Self - derived from reflection, introspection and self assessment
  6. Doing other jobs - the experiences gained from doing a diverse range of non-managerial jobs
  7. Media - newspapers, books, professional journals, etc
  8. Parents - derived from background and upbringing
  9. Innate - skills and attributes considered to be genetically pre-determined   
Taken overall, the three most frequently mentioned sources were doing the job (42% of all mentions), non-company education (21%) and living (12%)

Which sources help develop which skills?


Since writing the original post in September 2013, I have produced a summary of the research and its implications as a Slideshare presentation.



Conclusion - what are the implications for management learning?

What strikes me as being most important about this research is that it's based on what managers are themselves saying.  Their answers tell us how they link critical qualities/skills and learning sources.

That a variety of experience matters: doing the job, doing other jobs and from the experience of life itself.

That structured learning experiences are helpful, especially when learners have the chance to engage with others outside of the organisation and to engage in deep learning practice and assessment.

What's notable, by its absence, is any reference to coaching and mentoring as sources of learning.  Given that it's a learning practice that has become widely used in organisations either with external coaches and mentors or with the development of line manager coaching skills, this absence is surprising.  The researchers made no comment about this and it's possible that as a management development practice it was less prevalent in the mid-70s.  Or perhaps that for the managers it was wrapped up in the natural processes of doing the job or living.

And maybe that's the key point: that managers get it that they learn most of what they can do by doing the job.  As learning specialists, my sense is that we can and should do more to help managers learn from their experience; through observation, by paying attention and thinking about what it is that they are already doing.  Observation and reflection then becomes the foundation for trying out new practices, getting feedback from peers and colleagues, developing a network inside and outside the organisation to share what it is that's working and what's not.  My NODES model provides a way of representing this as a flow of personal and collective learning.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Taking care of business means taking care of learning

Taking care of business means taking care of learning. If learning is everywhere, it should definitely be where the work is getting done. When learning is the work, we need to observe how people are learning to do their work already. We should find these natural pathways and reinforce them. 
 Quote from Harold Jarche's blog post Work is learning, learning is the work

I was talking recently to a senior manager about ways of supporting a business change programme that will be moving into business as usual.  It was clear that a lot of hard work had been done by the project team through regular communications and workshops to support the targeted group of people.  My critical perspective is that, in common with lots of similar initiatives, the change process has tended to focus too strongly on top-down communications and 'sheep dip' skills development. 

So what's the problem? 

When you are implementing change of one type or another, it's tempting to follow a route that reflects the established hierarchical order of the organisation.  I think this is the wrong way around.  If we really want change to happen is has to come from the inside-out, i.e. endogenously rather than from the outside-in, i.e. exongenously.  The former places responsibility for change with individuals; the latter takes it away and may even be de-skilling people, at least in terms of their own learning. 

What should we focus on? 

As Harold Jarche reminds us, taking care of business means taking care of learning.

My priorities for taking care of learning would be these:

Encourage balanced learning habits

The importance of learning skills is one of the more recent discoveries of research on managerial and leadership work.  Success can be explained by the presence or absence of habits and skills related to learning.  These habits and skills include being able to use a range of different learning processes from courses, coaching and reflection and to be capable of abstract as well as practical thinking.

Develop the skills of observation and analysis

Again research tells us that we learn most of what we know on the job.  Therefore, formal learning processes should focus much more on developing the skills of workplace observation and analysis.  The results of this approach would help people understand what and how they and/or their teams are already doing.  It would also produce a number of possible pathways for development.

Enable communities. Promote networks

In the 70:20:10 learning model, the 20% represents the learning from others.  Developing the means to be able to learn from people beyond one's immediate colleagues opens up opportunities for new perspectives and problem solving.  Examples include the use of portals and social networks like Yammer and Jive. 

Bundle resources

Organisations can do a lot to put together bundles of resources from which learners can draw.  Things like:

  • Self-analysis questionnaires and quizzes
  • Short, simple videos
  • Mini-scenarios that allow the user to check whether they can put what they have learned into practice
  • Decision aids 
  • Reference material in PDF format


In my view, learning should encourage the sense of discovery and challenge.  It should be entrepreneurial in the sense that learners should be expected to take the initiative.  The technology around us right now is making this easy to achieve.  The agenda that I continue to pursue is to support and challenge organisations to think and act differently.

Further reading: A Manager's Guide to Self-Development by Mike Pedler, John Burgoyne, Tom Boydell 

Picture from Deposit Photos

Monday, 29 July 2013

Social media and the workplace - sorting the wheat from the chaff

'The bottom line: the most important impact of social media technologies comes from who — and what — they empower, not just the information they exchange. Do organizations appreciate and understand that these tools put them in the "empowerment" and not just the "better communications" business?'

I think Michael is right about this so long as you 'get it' in the first place.  For lots of people that I speak to in the workplace, social media still feels optional and peripheral to day-to-day activity.  Sometimes this seems to feel like a binary choice between meeting or not meeting a work-based goal or, more often, just a perceived lack of relevance because of the unfocused nature of what's being posted by others. 

Sorting the wheat from the chaff

In my experience, it takes just a little bit of self-organisation and experimentation to sort the 'wheat from the chaff'.  These are the practical things that I do. I've sorted them into things I do to  find information and then another set of things that I do to make sense of what I've found.  

Finding information

  1. Bookmarking websites and blogs that are relevant to my interests
  2. Building my connections on LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, SlideShare
  3. Reading what others are posting on LinkedIn, etc 
  4. Subscribing to aggregator email lists and RSS feeds
  5. Joining and contributing to special interest groups on LinkedIn and other public or private networks

Sense-making, learning and sharing

  1. Collating/aggregating a regular digest for others to read
  2. Clipping articles and web pages using Evernote.  
  3. Making brief notes on Evernote to remind me of points of interest, to which I can refer at a later date
  4. Keeping a paper notebook to hand to note down anything of interest from what I am reading, or doing or observing
  5. Blogging to help organise thoughts and ideas
  6. Microblogging on Twitter or LinkedIn to signpost useful hints and tips for others to use
  7. SlideShare to present ideas in more depth.  My SlideShare presentation about the NODES model of conversational learning and social collaboration describes the process of Network.  

Image courtesy of a Czech tourism site

Sunday, 7 July 2013

NODES model of conversational learning and social collaboration

It’s all about networks. Understanding networks that is. This is the shift our organizations, institutions, and society must make in order to thrive in an always-on, interconnected world.
This is a quote from Harold Jarche’s blogpost It’s all about networks in 2012.

What people like Harold Jarche are doing through their work is noticing what’s happening, taking seriously what it is they are noticing, thinking critically and sharing publicly.  This capacity to share learning and enrich both their thinking and others is of great value.  


This capacity and willingness to share is connected to Ubuntu, from African culture, and roughly speaking translates as – my humanity is your humanity or I in you and you in me.  To have Ubuntu is to have a generosity of spirit that understands our interconnectedness and acts for the benefit of all.    

NODES model of conversational learning and social collaboration

I’ve developed the NODES learning model to help me make sense of how learning in networks happens. 

The model does not give preference to any particular method of learning per se.  What’s critical to learning in a networked world is participation; connecting ourselves and our individual ideas with our network.


In the model I am using the word network in two senses.  Firstly, network as a noun within which we participate as nodes, i.e. a central or connecting point at which lines or pathways intersect or branch.  Secondly, network as a verb in which the focus is on the work  of connecting and operating within a network.

So, participation is the key and the network as I see it is about:

  • making connections between ideas and action.  To think critically, reflect and join the dots
  • collaborating with others through free-flowing conversations and information sharing
  • generating energy from making connections to people, ideas and information
  • using feedback from actions to drive individual and social reflection and new ideas
Follow the link to a SlideShare presentation summary of the NODES model and its influencing ideas

NODES – beta version

This model is emergent and has evolved through my own learning interests. It is still a beta version despite several interactions already.  It has been deepened through a number of informal conversations with friends and colleagues, for which thanks.  It has been enriched by the generosity of spirit shown by those who have shared their ideas, many of whom I have never met.   This process continues and your comments and feedback are welcomed and encouraged.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

The experience of learning from experience

As I've posted previously in a piece called Performance Development - moving away from the garage refit model, conversations about learning and development planning often focus on courses as primary sources of learning. 

It's all about experience - mine and others'

But with a little stimulation and encouragement, I have a sense in which paying attention to the experience of learning - what it is to learn, the sources of learning and the extent to which we have the ability to be in control - can and will shift the status quo.  My point is that when we experience and take seriously the learning that we get from experience, it will encourage us as learners to make new connections, to find new sources and pay rather less attention to traditional models like formal courses.

Two pieces that I've read recently pick up on what there is to be learned from experience.

Firstly, Euan Semple's succinct reflections in Life Lessons of the Keyboard provide a nicely articulated description of learning from his experiences of typing. As Semple reflects:

Staying calm keeps me in the moment. It helps me make less mistakes.
Maybe the same could be true of the rest of my life…

David Sudnow's book, Ways of the Hand (1978), does something similar in which he tells the story of how he learned to improvise jazz on the piano by, quite literally, noticing how his hands moved over the keyboard.  He took seriously his experience, noticed what was happening and wrote it down.

Secondly, Harvard Business Review's April 2013 edition, page 127 to 131 Reprint R1304L, Make yourself an expert describes the tools for learning from experience.  The pitch of the article is about how to go about learning from people with deep expertise, 'deep smarts', as they call them: people with business-critical expertise built up through years of experience. And the four steps that are described in the learning model to pull on this expertise are: Observation, Practice, Partner and Problem Solve, Take Responsibility.  What is being advocated is a simple action plan, informed by experience, and managed by the individual.

Clive Shepherd's work on top down-bottom up development planning, which he talks about in The New Learning Architect, describes a similar approach.  Learning is a process that revolves around a continuous cycle of reflecting,observing, exploring and experimenting, supported by peers, experts and teachers. 


Given that we know that we learn most of what we know or can do from experience, it seems to me that we need to understand better the relationship between working and learning, with whom and how. Lurking in this is an issue to do with accountability for learning and how we might go about reframing the relationship between teacher and learning.   

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The challenge of moving from being a position in a hierarchy to becoming a node in a network

I was with a group of a dozen managers recently to do some work with them on networking with a view to helping them make a shift towards becoming a node in a network as opposed to the more traditional role identity of a position in a hierarchy.

I told the group that I would write a blog about my reflections of working with them on this topic as I was interested in the range of reactions that I saw, felt and heard.

The context of the discussion was a half-day session that forms part of a larger programme of learning aimed at first-line leaders.  The workshop covered some personal reflections on 'who am I as a leader' using a psychometric instrument and then extended this self-reflection into questions and exercises about learning interests and the shape and size of each persons current network.

What I saw

I asked each person to produce a work-focused network diagram.  With one or two exceptions the extent of the networks were limited to their immediate hierarchy or horizontal links to related functions like quality control, risk management, finance or HR.  Suprisingly few had any links to external professional organisations or networking groups of any kind.  External networking tools like LinkedIn were being used by the minority.

What I heard

For the majority, there was a lack of awareness of the extent and growth of networks and the inexorable impact that this is and will have on hierarchies.  I heard many examples of resistance in one form or another towards the challenge being posed towards ways of working. 

Comments like these were typical:
'I don't want to be part of the future'

'I don't have time [to use this organisation's internal social media site]'  As I have commented in a previous blog about teams and collaboration, for some, more time spent networking means a binary choice between meeting or not meeting a work-based goal. 

'The people who are using the [internal social media platform] have got nothing else to do'

In stark constrast was a the lone voice of one manager who said 'the network is my safety blanket'; safety in the sense that it provided this individual with the means to taking control of their career and making their own choices about when and where to move roles.  It was very clear that this individual had little need for their line manager or a HR function to determine career paths; this notion was as moribund as semaphore is to communications.  Of interest was that this individual was a non-UK national who had had experience of working and studying in the USA and China and for whom the network had evolved as the only effective way of staying in touch with family, friends and business contacts. 

What I felt

As I listened to and reflected on what was being said I noticed several things:

The strength of identity that many people feel towards the hierarchy and their position in it. 

The challenge of breaking away from a role-based identity towards one that's centred on personal values and interests; quite literally, 'who am I' [as a person, as a leader, etc] and therefore what are my interests.  

Resistance versus openness to this shift isn't about age. 



Although we are living in the 'Facebook generation' with in excess of 1 billion active users on that platform alone, it doesn't follow, or not yet at least, that this same enthusiasm for making strong and loose ties with friends has yet had the same impact in the workplace.  

Oscar Berg's collaboration pyramid captures very well the distinctions between formal and informal collaboration.  And central to what this model is about is the idea that to be able to collaborate with each other we need to shift our thinking away from a subservience for what the boss wants or thinks towards taking seriously our experience, our ideas and our interests.  

I've been working on and developing a model of conversational learning and social collaboration that attempts to draw attention to the everyday interactional work between an individual and others to help shape the work in network.  I will follow up on this in a subsquent blog.  

Thursday, 11 April 2013

'Learning leaders': DIY learning campfires

I want to say something here about a couple of instances that I've come across recently of managers doing things to build their own learning.  I'm not saying that this represents any kind of widespread trend, but I am noticing the fact that it is happening and therefore it's worth noting and sharing.

Both examples are from the same company. 

What is being done? - reading, analysing, discussing, acting

What's of interest is that this is a bottom-up approach kicked off by a manager, with an interest in the field of leadership and management, and dubbed 'learning leaders'This practice is now being followed and adapted by a colleague in the same business unit.

The group is meeting once a month for about an hour or two outside of the normal office hours.  There is a selected topic and book/video or podcast.  The group reviews, analyses and discusses the things of interest that arise from the reading.

There are several positive benefits of this approach.

Following personal interests rather than waiting for the prescriptions from the L&D department

I like the responsibility that's being taken to follow personal learning interests rather than waiting for L&D to decide what should be learned about.

Encouraging collaboration and learning

I like the collaborative and social learning process.  Sharing stories and insights is the equivalent of sitting around the campfire; it's enjoyable and the insights shared spark ideas and suggestions for action and further learning.    It's also encouraging managers in other teams to do something similar.

What are the other possible ways in which this kind of self-directed, practice-based development might be expanded?

Practice-based development done in situ and in the unique working context of a particular team offers lots of potential sources of learning.  Here are some ideas of ways it could be expanded

Breaking down hierarchies to become nodes in a network

As well as meeting to share insights and stories in, say, an operational and hierarchically organised team, it's also an opportunity to encourage each 'learning leader' to identify and follow their own learning interests; to become a node in a network of learners and to develop their own branching networks of interests that are independent of the operational team. 

Note taking via blogging and micro-blogging: capturing learning as it emerges

Writing is an extremly powerful learning tool and social tools like blogs and micro-blogs really do help capture the flow of learning, if not quite in real time, pretty close to it.  And the sharing of this flow of learning is very useful and helpful to others.  This includes those who might have been at the same meeting - it's always useful to read others' perspectives - and those who couldn't make it or weren't invited.  If it's useful, then why not share it?  

Recording the action

Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger's Situational Learning Theory showed how midwives and tailors, for example, learned their trade by what they termed legitimate peripheral participation, i.e. participating in the act of learning the skills of the trade.  Much of what managers do isn't so easily available for learning in this way because it takes place behind closed doors, e.g. in 1:1 or team meetings.  

I'd like to see much more use made of digital video recording and making this available as a piece of primary learning data in much the same way as, say, a formally designed learning video.  The benefit of this would be that a learning group could really focus on their specific in situ and in vivo learning.

My interests

As a foot note, a word about my interests.  The thread that runs through everything that I follow and write about is an interest in observing and understanding managerial practice.  Our management learning practices give priority to abstract knowledge over in situ everyday practice and my interest is in helping managers by:

  • Looking closely at the situation specific facts as the basis for action and performance improvement
  • Creating context-specific knowledge about how things get done: in this place, at this time, by these people, in these specific circumstances 
  • Boosting self confidence by helping to affirm what it is they aleady know or are doing
  • Providing a platform from which they can then develop and follow their learning interests. 
 Image from Deposit Photos

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