Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Presentation Notes: Management Colloquium

I attended the following event on Friday, November 30, 2007.

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From the campus flyer:

Topic: "Managers as Facilitators of Learning, Informal Workplace Learning, and the Learning Organization: A Research Agenda."

Presenter: Dr. Andrea Ellinger, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Summary of the session: "This session will present selected research studies Dr. Ellinger has conducted on managers as facilitators of learning, informal workplace learning, and the learning organization concepts that collectively represent the focus of my research agenda. Dr. Ellinger will also overview some of her current research and writing projects and discuss how these efforts will guide future developments in her research agenda."

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The simple translation for that summary is: the professor will pretty much list her vita publications and tell the story of how she did some of the studies leading from her research. However, no actual substantial discussion of the work itself will take place. Basically, the presentation was an outline of her work with titles and minimal citations. While she gave very broad strokes of her work, I did not really get a whole lot out of the session in terms of what I was interested in, which was learning about informal learning and learning organizations. The ideas sound great, but a bit more on what the actual findings are, what we can learn from them, and how they can apply specifically to different situations would have been nice to hear. I guess I will have to hunt down a citation or two if I want to get an actual sense of the research and its implications. Having said all this, for students, especially graduate students, I can see where such a session is beneficial to give students a sense of how scholarship is developed. It specially illustrates an old concept I learned in graduate school: the concept of salami slicing. In other words, do a study or some research, and then take the results and turn them into a series of articles for publication. The professor, like most academic scholars, is pretty good at salami slicing.

Anyhow, here are notes I took while I listened:

  • Guiding question: how managers develop people.
  • The professor conducted a "managers as instructors" study. She was looking at how managers train others, then how those go on to train others, and so on. This was called a cascade training strategy (I need to look this up in the literature. A cursory search revealed it was something for training large groups of people swiftly).
    • Found one worker who expected the manager not be a formal trainer but did expect the manager to support her own personal training. (Now, I wonder how this might work in librarianship given the need for librarians to continue learning. How do their managers/directors handle it?)
    • This concept is what led to the professor's dissertation on "Managers as Facilitators of Learning in Learning Organizations."
  • From the dissertation.
    • 13 behavior sets define manager roles as facilitators of learning. It also looked at those managers' self-efficacy when it comes to them facilitating learning.
    • Citations to articles derived from the dissertation: HRDQ (1999), Journal of Management Development (1999; this one is on Volume 18, Issue 9. I had to dig it out of Emerald. Would have been nice if the professor gave better citations), Management Learning (1999; this one is in volume 30, issue 4. I found via it Sage).
  • Creating a learning culture matters and can have a positive impact on an organization.
    • See HRDQ (2003).
  • Watkins theory of workers being challenged and about learning triggers (I may need to look this up too. I got the gist that the triggers idea goes along with motivation to learn).
  • What is it about workplace context that encourages someone to develop others, and that encourages self-learning? Think of things that help and obstruct.
  • Some positive factors found in studies (I think this can have significance/can be something to think about in our profession too):
    • Learning-committed leadership and management.
    • Internal culture committed to learning.
    • Work tools and resources (books, the Internet, people, etc.)
    • People forming webs of relationships for learning.
  • Some of the negative factors found in studies:
    • Leaders lacking learning commitment.
    • Lack of work tools and resources.
    • People who disrupt the webs of relationships.
    • Lack of time.
    • Too much change too fast (this should sound familiar around some of the 2.0 discussions in libraries).
    • Structural inhibitors (architecture, people and how they are placed).
    • Not learning from the learning experience.
    • See HRDQ (2005) and Journal of Workplace Learning (2007; this one is in volume 19, issue 7. Found via Emerald).
  • Found that significant overlap exists between effective management coaching behaviors and managerial effectiveness behavior. This was reinforced by other studies. Concluded that effective managers tend to be effective people developers.
  • Idea: good customer service on basis of well-trained and empowered front-line workers (this could make a few blog posts I am sure for some people). Would formalized training and/or informal coaching increase value? Yes, it does, to an extent. Highly empowered workers actually revealed that too much training got in the way of performance. Therefore, not every employee needs the same level of training and coaching.
  • But what about social capital in the workplace? This deals with collaboration and relationships built in the workplace. Can coaching help social capital translate into performance outcomes? This is the direction her research is taking now.
Anyways, there it is. I think there are some intriguing ideas here that could be considered in light of librarianship. I will need to seek out one or two of her articles to get a better sense of her work. If I do read any, I will make a note in the blog.


Jeff Scott said...

Thank you for sharing this. I really enjoyed the parts regarding people development and training. This is something I have been thinking about lately.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Thank you for stopping by. I noticed you keep a manager's blog, so I will have to take a look as well.

Best, and keep on blogging.