Research and technology Knowledge

Posted April 1998

Special: Managing Agricultural Research

Management training

Cover page | Overview | The manual | Orientation | Case studies | Course content | Training | Programme planning | Ordering the manual

Aims for management training

An analysis of the major requirements for training managers and administrators suggests that a training programme should aim at enhancing their capability to (i) understand specific situations, (ii) orientate action, and (iii) use effectively a problem solving approach which involves (a) defining problems, (b) generating options to resolve the problems, (c) specifying the criteria to select the best option, (d) assessing options on the specified criteria and choice of option, (e) developing an action plan, and (f) developing a contingency plan.

Enhancement of the above capabilities requires an improved knowledge base, covering the organization and its functioning, the environment in which it operates, a conceptual knowledge to explain actions of the organization and the people forming it, and the theory, techniques and approaches for resolving organizational problems. Besides such knowledge, decision-makers would also need a variety of skills to diagnose situations, apply theories, approaches and techniques, and both listen to others' opinions and convince colleagues about their own inferences and decisions. Finally, in the absence of complete information, appropriate values and attitudes would be most useful in taking decisions, devising implementable action plans, and obtaining support for implementing action plans.

Any training programme aims at improving a mix of the three elements of learning: knowledge, skills and attitudes. As the level of responsibilities increase, the importance of attitudinal development is enhanced and that of gaining skills and acquiring knowledge reduces. Ironically, it is also more difficult to impart and imbibe development of attitudes and values, compared to gaining skills, and gaining of skills as compared to mere acquisition of knowledge.

Some critical aspects of learning

Learning is a complicated process in general, and more so among managers at different levels and in different functions of organizations. Besides, each may have developed their own ways, which differ from those of others. Yet, some general principles relating to the learner and the learning process have been found to be helpful in improving adult learning. The level of motivation of the learner is likely to affect learning positively. Three elements of the learning process which help in improved learning are (i) participative or active learning, (ii) reinforcement and feedback, both positive and negative, and (iii) applicability of learning to the learners' situation.


Motivation is positively related to learning. There could be a variety of motivations for individual learners: some want to learn merely for the sake of learning, others learn to improve their status, still others to master improved techniques and skills to do a job better, and still others learn to safeguard their current position. Whatever the reason, motivation has been found to be positively related to the extent of learning. The trainer should understand the diversity in motivational bases to relate to the learners for better individual and group learning. It may also be useful to pay adequate attention to the learner's requirements of a nature other than academic, i.e., comfort, food, timing, feelings of acceptance from the group and the resource person, etc. This would allow true motivation to spur the participants towards the goal of learning.

Participation and practice

Experience suggests that an active and participative method of learning with some minimum repetition leads to improved learning of a variety of knowledge and skills.

Feedback and reinforcement

It is well known that positively reinforced learning leads to retention, whereas negatively reinforced learning leads to avoidance. In a training programme, such reinforcement could come from test results, feedback from colleagues (co-learners), feedback from resource persons, or the learner's increasing confidence in their own learning. The last kind is akin to self-actualization and would, most likely, work best for mature individuals. This, however, is a lengthy process, and the time needed might not be available in SEDPs. The learning method may, therefore, have to put more emphasis on other forms of reinforcement.

Application of learning

The purpose of most training of managers and administrators is to improve their decision making skills in actual work situations. Potential application of the learning in real life situations significantly enhances their motivation for learning. Further, if the process of learning is also similar to real life situations, the training method would be still more motivating.

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