Magazine article New Zealand Management

Lessons on Learning

Magazine article New Zealand Management

Lessons on Learning

Article excerpt

ARE WE UP WITH THE PLAY? Is New Zealand management learning and training up with best in the world? Kevin Gaunt, chief executive NZIM Northern, and Glenda Hamilton, training manager NZIM Southern, report on what they found when they attended the world's largest learning and training get-together at the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) conference and exposition in San Diego recently.

Widen it comes to embracing the latest ideas in management training and learning, New Zealand's smallness may be its "saving grace". That is at least one interpretation NZIM Northern CEO, Kevin Gaunt, puts on his observations from the ASTD's recent conference in San Diego.

"It was," he says, "reassuring to attend a conference of this scope and size and find that, when it comes to management training, NZIM and New Zealand are up there with the rest of the world." In Gaunt's opinion, developments at NZIM in recent years have ensured that it is aligned with world training and learning trends. "I couldn't identify any real gaps," he added.

In considering that reality, Gaunt thinks perhaps New Zealand's smallness and isolation are a strength rather than a disadvantage when it comes to keeping up with world trends. "As soon as someone brings some new information back from overseas, it moves quickly through our internal infrastructure," he offers. "Ideas are spread wide and fast and there is a strong general uptake."

Whatever the driving process, both Gaunt and NZIM Southern training manager, Glenda Hamilton, who also attended the conference along with the NZIM Foundation's four 2008 Scholarship winners, felt similarly about the generally up-to-speed state of local learning and training offerings. "The themes coming out of the conference were very affirming of our approach," said Hamilton. And the positive experience of attending the ASTD conference motivated her to "lift our (training and learning) game even further", she said.

Did the conference tell them anything they didn't already know about the future direction of management learning? Nothing radical or revolutionary, according to Gaunt. But the experience helped sharpen his perspective on what is happening in the learning and training development world.

There was, he said, a focus on developing high performing teams and strong recognition of the barriers to team performance. This he attributed to the current popularity of Patrick Lencioni's book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

Gaunt rated Lencioni the outstanding speaker of the conference and found his message on the five dysfunctions of teams "revealing". His five dysfunctions are:

* Absence of trust

* Fear of conflict

* Lack of commitment

* Avoidance of accountability

* Inattention to results.

From his own experiences in developing NZIM's Management Competency Model, Gaunt says he realises that "a significant amount of high-level leadership competency and skill we identified is around how leaders are able to build trust within a team which then opens the door to high performance," he said.

For Hamilton, the ASTD experience emphasised the key certainty, apart from taxes and death, that change is with us forever. "It may not be possible to predict long-term direction but change is inevitable. Our ability to build fexibility into strategy; capability into teams; and responsiveness into the decision-making process will," she said "go a long way towards meeting organisational needs through learning and development in the future."

Hamilton was also captivated by the 'return on investment' stream of thinking that pervaded the conference. …

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