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  • (2004) Rozario, Anne Loyella
    This thesis critically examines and questions the effectiveness of a competency-based training policy for frontline management training and development in Australia - the Frontline Management Initiative (FMI). This represents a crucial landmark in Australian Government training policy, in that the training and development of frontline managers was given a national impetus and for the first time a frontline management program with nationally recognised qualifications and transferable competencies was developed. Since the very nature of management and managerial competence are matters of long-standing debates, the application and effectiveness of the FMI for the 'frontline manager' and the organisation as a whole constitutes a critical aspect of this work. The study explores the interaction between national, institutional, organisational and individual factors and their impact on the implementation of the FMI in organisations. Data to address the research questions were sought through a series of interviews and questionnaires, six case studies, and supplemented by an extensive analysis of the literature and policy documents regarding the FMI. An institutional perspective on the FMI policy development process was obtained through interviews with policy makers and other individuals who have played prominent roles in the FMI. Interviews with senior managers from the case study organisations provided organisational perspectives on the FMI, and interviews and questionnaires completed by FMI participants provided participant perspectives. An important theme of this thesis is that the political and economic context played an important role in shaping the frontline management recommendations. The FMI is a political construction of what is believed to be the characteristics of an effective 'enterprising frontline manager'. The thesis demonstrates that training and development activities are not only influenced by the organisational environment, but also restrained by national institutions developed over time to deliver and accredit training. In particular the development of a national training system linked with training packages (that enable organisations to provide firm-specific training) and national qualifications reflect a conflict between employee needs and enterprise needs. The current focus of national training which reflects 'enterprise needs', requires employees to be made more 'competent' to suit industry requirements, with the result that the provision of transferability of competencies and qualifications to other firms and industries has been compromised. The analysis of FMI practice indicates that the role and performance of frontline managers are significant issues in all the case study organisations. In an environment characterised by change and (senior managerial) expectations as to what frontline managers ought to be doing, frontline management development is viewed as a key organisational process aimed at delivering successful organisational renewal. For frontline managers these new expectations signal fundamental changes in their roles. An important finding is that the organisational context within which the implementation of the FMI has taken place and the nature of participant characteristics (especially educational qualifications) have influenced participants' perceptions and attitudes towards the FMI. While the rhetoric surrounding the implementation of the FMI focuses on greater organisational productivity, high performing managers, self direction, flexible approach to skill recognition, national accreditation and transferability of skills, in practice the underpinning assumptions of the FMI, including organisational reality (power and politics), make at least some of this rhetoric questionable. As a MD and training technology for managers it is neither a neutral nor an objective process and therefore should not be viewed as an isolated process taking place in organisations. The FMI is a means of crafting distinct frontline managerial identities in organisations and as such may also fall victim to workplace practices and managerial prerogatives. The National Training Framework also emerges as a critical factor in maintaining the quality, credibility and relevance of the FMI training and qualification. Weak training arrangements have had important consequences for the implementation of the FMI. In particular inconsistent implementation of National Training Framework policies has impacted on the quality and relevance of FMI training delivery, the recognition that training receives (within and outside organisations) and the extent to which it achieves the objectives of transferable and consistent training outcomes for frontline managers. Finally, the overall success of the FMI policy is questioned in this thesis. The thesis demonstrates that perceptions of a 'successful' FMI policy are strongly linked to institutional interests. Attention is drawn towards the 'politics of FMI' and the instrumental behaviour displayed by policy makers to protect their institutional interests.