Champions wanted to drive training Initiatives.
By Moira Katz, Kavan Consultants, and Mariétta van Rooyen, Assessment College of SA
This article spells out some of the imperatives of being a CHAMPION and the effect of champions on the workplace.
"Heck," complained the training manager in the large organisation to his colleagues over tea. "I'm supposed to be all enthusiastic about this new training project - and I would be because it is really good. Problem is I'm leading the project and I feel quite alone out there. My manager handed me down the project and told me she is just the administrator - she'll collect the info back from me when it is done. You know, the usual: how many did we train, who did what..."
"That's interesting," said his friend, "I feel the same way. I'm also implementing the project in my area. I sure would like to see some real support from management for a change."
A third supervisor chipped in, "Me too. What we really need is a champion!"
They all gloomily looked into their cups, hoping a genie would arise and give them a champion - not a faceless messenger who had told them very firmly, "I have inherited this project from the previous manager. I'm not involved and my time is too valuable to spend on this project. I'll administer it and deal with all the numbers and figures - but that's it."
With this attitude, this senior manager is certainly not going to champion the project! What then are the chances for its success? Very limited.
A complex project needs a manager to wear two hats: champion and administrator. The administrator hat is relatively easy to define. But what is a champion? A champion is an individual who leads initiatives that influence others to perform differently and better. To put it succinctly, the administrator works with numbers and processes, the champion works with and leads people.
# The Qualities of a Champion
To begin with, champions have a vision of the overarching project plan with all its complexities, and are able to keep the end result in mind at all times. They accept total accountability for the project and begin by seeing that the administration side is in order; that the methodologies, standards, tools, guidelines, communication systems are all in place. They use their problem-solving, planning, and organising skills and identify and remove obstacles. They take responsibility for clearing red tape and organisational politics.
>> Implementation issues and commitment
When they first start talking about project implementation, they acknowledge that they will be met by silence, confusion, criticism, denial, discord, thoughts of sabotage, easy superficial agreement, deflection, all of which do not deter them. They overcome resistance, deal with each obstacle with patience and understanding as it surfaces, and carry on championing.
They are publicly committed. They have a team to whom they are dedicated. They champion this team to top management and champion top management to the team. They develop these team leaders into a network of champions, who carry the torch forward to their teams. They talk to the network often, share information with them, hear what is happening, celebrate their successes, and when asked to, help solve their problems.
>> Trust and support
Once they have handed down the work, they do not interfere. They concentrate on their own jobs. But they are always there, ready to listen and support. They are aware that communicating is a constant and never-ending requirement. They therefore communicate and monitor regularly to ensure consistent application of the methodologies, standards, tools and guidelines, but also to hear about problems and achievements.
>> Being pro-active
The key to communicating successfully is being proactive. It is their responsibility to get the word out. Because they know what is going on, they do not assume that everyone else does. And because a message was sent out last month, it does not mean that everyone either got the message or believed it. Champions are out and about, pulling others in ever more closely, soliciting their ideas and hearing their concerns. They do not rely solely on reports to tell them what is going on. They wander around, observe, and speak to people.
>> Motivation and inspiration
The manager recognises that motivation can only come from within the person. So, he/she sets the scene for self-motivation. Managers share their passion for the project to inspire passion in others. They know that if they are not passionate about the business and about the project, nobody else will be. They constantly speak to others of this passion and belief. They inspire others with their dedication and enthusiasm. They speak positively at all times and encourage others so that they perform better than expected. They are role models for gaining new champions down the organisation.
>> Progress and milestones
They share at all times information about the progress of the project: the stage it is at, the successes and concerns, and the difference the partial implementation is making as the project proceeds.
>> Risks and responsibilities
When they have to, they make quick decisions and take risks. They never forget that the work is done by others and include them as much as possible in problem-solving and decision-making. They recognise the human aspects of the project and create supportive environments. They tolerate risk, failure, and mistakes...but use them to point to change and success.
>> Seeing the big picture,
They are aware of other projects within the organisation and how their particular project blends with the other initiatives. They share this information with their team.
# Champions for what issues?
Remember the Millennium bug? Most of us have long forgotten the horror of this bug that was supposed to come and gobble up all our data. However, because of top management commitment most companies were prepared for the worst scenario. If only we put so much effort and resources into the implementation of the new training and education systems! Project teams were set up and project leaders were identified to deal with all possible contingencies that could result from the Millennium Bug.
Some of the training projects that need a champion are:
>> Appointment of the Skills Development Facilitator
>> Generating a Workplace Skills Plan
>> Reporting after implementation of the WSP
>> Setting up of an assessment and moderation system
>> Generation of standards for key occupations in the company and
>> Reviewing training materials to make sure it complies with an outcomes-based format
>> Selecting the best out-sourced training available
>> Establishment of a quality assurance system for the provision of education and training.
# The HR and HRD Manager
The HRD manager is ideally suited to become the champion of all these initiatives. As a matter of fact, if they are not busy doing this, they are failing their profession. So, you are too busy? The very fact that you are too busy may be due to the fact that you are not championing the above causes.
Let us take a good look at some of the things HRD Managers keep themselves occupied with:
>> Training needs analysis and skills audits: These can be done much better with the bigger picture provided by the WSP in mind. Besides, the SDF will help you to do this.
>> Job profiling and performance analysis: You will be able to get a much better grip on these by generating enterprise standards and having workers assessed against these by a subject-matter expert. That way you will know if you are dealing with a competency problem or a motivational problem only.
>> Training reports and statistics: You need to do these for the report on your WSP, and get your grants back from the SETA to boot. The SDF will facilitate this work and you need not do it alone.
>> Supervision and control of trainers and training events: This will be much easier to handle if you have a proper assessment and moderation system in place. Besides, the assessors and moderators will do it for you.
>> Generating training materials: The fact that you have the standards agreed to by all role players will make things much easier for you. The assessors will be able to contribute much regarding the self-assessment and assessment activities.
>> Spending time in training rooms and workshops: Let the experts do this. Unless you are training people in HR and HRD matters, you are not the subject-matter expert. Let the line experts and outside consultants do what they know best. Your job is to make sure that line experts have the skills to coach, mentor, and assess.
>> Running around quenching fires where things went wrong: The setting up of a quality assurance management system will take time and money, but will be a good investment for the entire company.
>> Evaluating and selecting outside consultants and providers: Be on top of it by knowing which providers are ready to be registered by the DOL and accredited by their ETQAs. Prove that you add value to the core business and ensure that your training is respected and valued, by becoming an expert advisor on the new legislation to your management.
It is a certainty that the higher the champion in the organisational hierarchy, the better the chance of achieving successful implementation of these projects. Leading a team through a large-scale project demands a set of skills that may be uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and difficult for the ultimate team leader. It requires setting a course through uncertainty and insecurity, and developing new skills to interact with teams more productively.
If you are not in a position to become the champion yourself, you will need to convince the senior managers that is will be worth their while to champion this cause. The best way to do this is to convince them that this is part of their duties in any case. But please let them think that this was their idea! Share with management the need for senior management support for projects and the call for champions. Coach team leaders on how to become champions themselves, keeping in mind that a champion is a person the team would follow to a place they would not (or could not) go by themselves.
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