TheGovernment’s modernising agenda has brought extra benefits to the Borough ofLewisham, as senior management development adviser Mary Evans explains. ByLucie CarringtonInvestwisely in management competencies and you could find yourself slicing thousandsof pounds off your management training budget. That’s what Mary Evans, seniormanagement development adviser at the London Borough of Lewisham did.Evansand her HR colleagues invited 40 managers from the borough to help them trial aset of management competencies at a development centre. It was an intensivethree-day session that resulted in 40 individual training plans. “Oneof the criticisms of development centres is that they are just an expensivemeans of needs analysis. So we put aside some money to fund the training anddevelopment managers would need as a result of the centre. “Butinstead of coming up with a list of communication and time management courses,participants went away with a list of things they wanted to do differently orother ways of doing their jobs,” Evans said.Thedevelopment centre, which HR consultancy Fulcrum designed for Lewisham, was agood buy for other reasons too. “It cost between £1,000 and £2,000 a head – theequivalent of sending someone on a two- or three-day management course,” Evanssays. “Given the depth of learning, it was very cost effective.” Lewishamdid not design management competencies as a cost-cutting exercise. They cameout of the Government’s modernising agenda. For local authorities this includesinitiatives such as best value – aimed at improving the delivery of localservices – and structural changes to the make up of councils. This has seenLewisham piloting the idea of a directly elected mayor. “Wehave a very ambitious leadership in Lewisham – both the elected members andsenior managers want us to transform the organisation,” Evans says. Threeprongs to process“Thechief executive has identified three prongs to this process: modern systems,modern managers and modern approaches to personal effectiveness. Thecompetencies fit in by defining what the modern manager at Lewisham needs tobe.” Thekey is that Lewisham’s competencies are not about what managers do, but abouthow they do it. Theyare designed to back up a manager’s job description, not replace it. So thereis no vast competence map along the lines of that developed by the ManagementCharter Initiative, which some organisations have sought to customise.InsteadLewisham is focusing on four ideas: continuous improvement, working together,tackling service issues and delivering services. Withinthese are 12 competencies that set out the behaviour and action Lewishamexpects from its managers if they are to be successful.Becausethe competencies are behavioural, rather than task-oriented, they are fairlybroad, including problem-solving, customer focus and achieving results. “Theyare about changing the culture of the organisation, not ticking boxes,” shesays.Butthere is a danger that they could be too general and vague. To counter thisEvans and her team have produced a guidebook of do’s and don’ts for Lewishammanagers. This suggests, for example, that, if they are to be competent indecision taking, they take tough and difficult decisions, and so don’t deferthem to other people. Ifthey are to be competent at achieving results, Lewisham managers measure theirsuccess and achievements and don’t ignore how they are getting on. Andwhen it comes to communication, they listen to people without interrupting. Intotal there are 144 such recommendations or rules.Evanssays this approach to performance management is a big change for Lewisham.“Previously we have focused on helping staff develop themselves. Now we aremaking it clear what we expect from them.”Ittook Evans many months to develop and hone the competence framework. She beganby setting up a project team, made up of personnel colleagues and an outsideconsultant. Theylooked around at what other local authorities had done and produced an initialdraft. It was much longer than the final 12, and divided into operational andstrategic competencies.Extensiveconsultation with other managers and the mayor followed. This included devotingthe annual management conference to thrashing out the framework. Speakersfrom Fulcrum and the project team talked the scheme through with up to 100managers who tested themselves against the competencies. As a result of thesemeetings, the project team scrapped the idea of separate lists of operationaland strategic competencies.Asmaller group of managers then gave Evans and her colleagues more detailedfeedback. And that’s when Evans asked Fulcrum to run the development centre.“We needed to validate the competencies and start introducing them tomanagers,” she says.Participantsvolunteered or were chosen from across the borough so that a range of differentfunctions and levels of management was represented. Before attending the centrethey all filled in a self-assessment questionnaire matching them against thecompetencies.Thedevelopment centre itself was a mix of assessment exercises – includingsimulated in-trays, report writing and role play – and feedback. This came fromeach other and from personnel staff who had been trained as assessors. Bythe end of the three days, managers were expected to draw up development plansfor themselves based on filling in the gaps in their competencies.Therewas another issue at the heart of the competence framework that the developmentcentre also had to test – that of ethnic diversity. Afew years before Evans began drawing up management competencies, she wasinvolved in an action research project aimed at finding out why there were sofew black and ethnic minority managers in senior jobs. “One of the things thisthrew up was the need for more transparency around what we expect from ourmanagers,” she says.Asa result, Evans ran a positive action programme alongside the developmentcentre for ethnic minority participants. They met with a member of the HR teamto talk through some of the issues arising out of the development centre. MentorsTheywere also put in touch with a mentor to help follow up their development plansand they were encouraged to network with each other. Feedbackfrom black managers suggests they found it a valuable support, but it is tooearly to say how the competencies will help with their career progression.Thedevelopment centre was a tremendous success in that it made clear Evans and herteam had got the framework right. Butit only touched 40 of Lewisham’s managers. The competencies are designed foreveryone who manages staff – about 1,200 people. There is still a lot of workto do. Evans knows this. “At the moment the competencies are still more astatement of our ambition,” she says. Nowthere are plans afoot to bring everyone on board. To start with, she is usingher budget savings to run a development centre for a further 12 managers. Moreimportantly, Lewisham is introducing a performance evaluation or appraisalsystem this month. This will build competencies into managers’ personaldevelopment plans and ultimately link them into the council’s service, orbusiness, plan. “Peoplewill be set work objectives and will have to indicate key competencies theyneed to achieve those objectives,” Evans says. “At the following review theirperformance will be evaluated against their objectives and their competencies.”Evansbelieves this will be the real test of the competencies. “If they are robust,they should work for the rest of organisation,” she says with confidence. Overthe next few months 1,200 managers will take part in one-day workshopsintroducing them to the performance evaluation system. Evanshopes to be able to carry out some worthwhile evaluation at the end of thisyear with a view to influencing the service plan next year. Onceperformance evaluation is up and running, the management learning team willhave to turn its attention to the recruitment process. “Weshould be able to move quite quickly in introducing competencies intorecruitment, although we might have to change our procedures a bit,” she says. Changinga culture is a long-term project. But Evans works in a political environmentwhere there is a tension between providing quick results and getting it right.With13 years’ training and development experience at Lewisham under her belt, sheunderstands the dilemma. “Residentsdon’t want to wait around years for the organisation to move itself. But as anHR professional I know it will take three or four years to bed in ourcompetencies,” she says. Evanshas to hope the council leadership will stick with it – she is confident thatthe competencies will help Lewisham managers to work smarter. “Managerswill waste less time and will get more out of the people they manage. “Andif they are more effective as people managers then people will be moreenergised and motivated to provide better services,” she says.Vision,values and competenciesWhatit means to be a manager in the London Borough of Lewisham VisionTogetherwe will make Lewisham the best place in London to live, work and learnValues– Put people first– Invest in employees– Value diversity– Promote openness and honestyCompetencies– Continuous improvement Inspirational leadership Thinking broadly Change focus– Working together Working in partnership Influencing Communication– Tackling service issues Problem solving Decision making– Delivering services Planning and implementation Customer focus Self management Achieving results Related posts:No related photos. 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