Management Development ForumVolume 3 - N0. 1 (00)
The Editor’s Corner: Strengthening Personal and Organizational Capacity
Alan Belasen
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Welcome to the fourth issue of the Management Development Forum (MDF).

The fall 1999 issue of MDF centered to a large degree on change and revitalization through the acquisition and transfer of information and knowledge across the organization. Change and revitalization are about learning, and senior managers do not necessarily have a full picture of the workings of diverse units. They make important decisions by learning from ideas and innovative approaches that come from managers and operators who are closer to the points of impact. However, revitalization cannot be completed successfully unless the change process focuses on those who do the work itself – the employees – and their roles, responsibilities, and relationships.

The current issue continues this theme by emphasizing the critical elements of developing an organizational climate that supports participation and contributions by both managers and employees. Revitalization can be sustained by proactive and ongoing examination of current organizational capabilities and future needs, and by placing heavy weight on the development of structured learning and competency modeling and training.

Most observers will agree that in order to strengthen the capacity of organizational members to learn and deal with change, human resource managers should:

As you glance through the topics, you will read about improving personal productivity through competency training and developing human resource capacity through mentoring and counseling. Training has the potential to enhance competency levels but, unless disseminated throughout the organization, training cannot change the pattern by which work efforts and outcomes are aligned efficiently and effectively. Trained employees, managers and specialists may see their new skills go unused and perceive the training as unnecessary or redundant, undermining their commitment to the change process as a whole. Improving personal and organizational performance through training and acquisition of new knowledge and competencies must be an overarching goal that is widely accepted throughout the organization. In environments of discontinuity and pent-up technological changes, passive-aggression in the workplace may increasingly become the next most important challenge for human resource officers.

Chee-Leong Chong, Yuen-Ping Ho, Hwee-Hoon Tan, and Kwan-Kee Ng (National University of Singapore) propose a competency model that could facilitate the training and development of organizational members. In defining competencies they seek to move beyond the rhetoric of “higher is better” and instead to focus on a job-related, more resource-effective approach to identifying and measuring competencies. Companies can obtain information on competencies needed for various occupations to support recruitment and selection efforts as well as performance evaluation and the design of training and development systems. Individuals derive benefits from the competency model by using it to assess their personal skills and abilities against the inventory of requisite competencies associated with a particular job both for lateral or vertical career advancements.

Peter A. Creed (Griffith University) and Malcolm Davies (Learning at Work) report on outcomes for senior managers who participated in a training intervention that is developmental and aimed at teaching organizational leaders to perform with higher levels of confidence or self-efficacy. This developmental model called Thought Self-Leadership has been proposed as a way to influence workplace change through the use of mediating mental strategy variables such as self-talk, mental imagery and emotion. A training strategy that is aimed to improve workplace self-efficacy should also lead to skill transfer following training and enhanced on-the-job performance.

Roli Varma (University of New Mexico) addresses the challenge of creating and maintaining an effective managerial environment in centralized corporate R&D laboratories of high technology companies. Her study reveals the disparity that exists between the perspectives of scientists and management. One of the key issues with which corporate management must deal is how to create a research environment that respects scientists’ autonomy and builds on their creativity while at the same time ensuring that research is both cost-effective and directed towards acceptable outcomes. Because R&D managers are in a position to make decisions that affect scientists’ long-term research and overall productivity, they also need to establish communication links with scientists on technical and social matters.

Louise Moser Illes (Brigham Young University) explores the perplexing question of why mentoring is so valuable and desirable yet not fully institutionalized in organizations. Mentoring serves the needs of both mentors and protégés in different ways and as a construct may thrive better when flexible and unfettered by organizational or institutional mandate. It is also clear that mentoring relationships can be beneficial to the organization by promoting effective and productive role models, expediting new employees’ orientation and establishing close ties and networks that tend to sustain organizational retention. The article concludes with ways to enhance the success of mentoring programs both in business settings and in educational institutions.

Phil Hay (Ministry of Education, Queensland) and Charmine E. J. Härtel (University of Queensland) propose the use of a theoretical model to explain the process of employee resistance during transitions. Human resource managers are charged with the initiation and implementation of change programs that are often resisted. The process of deciding to resist an organizational change effort begins when employees discover or are told about the change and concludes when the employees engage in resistance behavior. Between discovery and resistance are two key interactive variables – attribution and emotional reaction. The article highlights for HR practitioners five areas that trigger the emotional stress or tension employees experience as a result of change programs and discusses how to deal with this stress.

Rudy Nydegger (Union College, Schenectady, New York) explores possible reasons for violence and passive-aggression in the workplace and provides some potential solutions to these ever-increasing problems. In addition to stress management programs and education, perhaps the most important means to reduce violence in the workplace is through open communication and the initiation of an organizational climate in which people can talk and listen to one’s another problems. When managers and employees become more aware of some of the danger signals, they can help make the work environment a safer and more secure place.

We hope you will find these articles stimulating and insightful for initiating and administering successful change programs in your organization. As always we welcome your comments in our discussion area.

Alan Belasen, Editor

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SUNY Empire State College