Are Management Training Courses Valuable for IT?

After four days of potholing, moving barrels across imaginary ravines and trying to map-read their way around the countryside, the pressure on the group of trainees was beginning to tell.

The military-style programme was designed to foster leadership skills and demonstrate the dynamics involved in group working. "Form, storm, reform, perform," the instructors explained.

The group seemed to have got stuck in the storming stage, or that is how it seemed when one member, a local authority IT manager, tipped over a table in frustration during a particularly tense discussion and was led from the room by the course leader, an ex-SAS officer.

Courses on leadership are more popular than ever as organisations seek to equip their IT bosses with the skills to cope in an increasingly complex environment.

Personal development is about helping individuals become effective leaders able to set direction, persuade others to follow and deliver IT benefits to the business. But no matter how inventive the training courses on offer, many CIOs, like the unfortunate delegate in Herefordshire, are struggling to apply them to the practical problems of running an IT department.

When IT management organisation CIO Connect asked 28 of its blue-chip company members about the importance of training and development, all those polled said it was critical to have plans in place for both themselves and their teams. About two-thirds said that they had benefited from previous development programmes.

But the survey went on to reveal an alarming gap between these good intentions and the reality of training in these firms. Nearly half the CIOs polled did not think their existing plans were good, and 14 per cent considered them inadequate.

For CIO Connect members, the priorities for personal development were influencing boardroom colleagues and building commitment to IT across the organisation, although, worryingly, respondents did not give their own needs a high priority.

"Training is not a strength of the UK economy," agrees Alistair Russell, development director at CIO Connect. "It is an important lever to effect change but, unfortunately, it is not always accepted as a significant one. There is an opportunity for us to do more."

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