IBM Learning believes that management development is a transformational and extended process, rather than a classroom event.
The global, technology-enhanced marketplace is transforming the manager’s role. Managers require more skills: accommodating an ever-changing matrix environment of shared leadership and report-to roles; leading teams that are geographically dispersed and mobile; creating an environment that encourages continual innovation vis-a-vis rapid market changes, and more.
Managers at IBM are no different. So, how could we get managers the skills they needed?
At IBM, managers work 10 to 12 hours per day, sometimes longer. The option to increase the two-day off-site class time for skill-building and networking was unfeasible. IBM needed a new approach to create dialogue, collaboration, individual development, and action plans. IBM Learning responded by creating the Role of the [email protected] program.
[email protected] is guided by four main objectives:
- use the learning process to address business-unit priorities and define action plans
- create new e-approaches to align teams on key business objectives
- target managers’ individual development needs in leading performance through people
- provide a learning and communications initiative that would support peer learning and shared objectives.
Enter blended learning
Enhancing leadership and management skills in a time-efficient way is of critical importance to managers. Moreover, being able to fulfill managers’ individual performance-support needs in a just-in-time manner is equally compelling. The task was to create an instructional model that uses our network infrastructure to allow managers to make best use of resources, both collaborative and online, to fulfill their organizational unit’s learning needs and the skill-building needs of our individual managers.
[email protected] blends four tiers of delivery in the tradition of a learning hierarchy. Each tier builds upon learning developed at the previous tier, beginning with information transfer and progressing on to skills development and collaborative person-to-person interaction. The tiers together comprise a system of tools and applications that constitute a continuing process of learning, instead of such events as one-time classes or workshops.
Tier 1: Online information transfer and performance support
Online resources are available to the manager via the company intranet anytime, anywhere—before, during, and after the two-day RM Learning Lab. The primary purpose is to prepare managers for the Learning Lab. Best thinking on 150+ leadership and people management topics are available, including customized materials from Harvard Business School Publishing. Printable worksheets and checklists for specific action issues and links to important external Websites are highlighted. As we team globally, managers need access to policies and practices in different countries. Tier 1 allows managers fast access to all global HR material.
Tier 2: Interactive online skill building and simulations
Managers enhance their knowledge and skill development by engaging in immersive simulations of issues presented in Tier 1. The online Coaching Simulator comprises eight different scenarios with more than 5000 screens of actions, decisions points, and branching results. More than 30 other simulations and QuickCases cover other people management skills:
- motivating employees
- eetaining employees
- enabling employee high performance
- creating an environment for innovation
- team leadership
- multicultural issues
- work-life issues
- employee business commitments.
Tier 3: Online collaboration
Tier 3 features ManagerJam and Manager ActionNet, which has managers participate in organizational groupware spaces to discuss and solve critical leadership issues with peer managers and their executive teams. Collaborative spaces using same-place, different-time communication enable a global learning environment, eliminating problems of time zones and travel, and creating networks that live beyond the [email protected] initiative.
Tier 4. Face-to-face, classroom learning lab
Face-to-face human interaction is arguably the most powerful learning intervention for developing manager skills. Workshops of management teams create and commit to shared learning action plans to drive change. The two-day, classroom-based experience requires the learner to master the material contained in Tiers 1, 2, and 3 so that the precious time spent in learning labs can target deeper and richer skills development.