Measuring the Impact of Outdoor Management Development- a Literature Review

Topics: Management, Experiential learning, Organizational studies and human resource management Pages: 10 (2801 words) Published: December 12, 2010
Measuring the Impact of Outdoor Management Development- A Literature Review

Abstract Despite the increase in popularity of Outdoor management development courses, there is a significant lack in proof of the effectiveness of an OMD. This paper looks at the various researches that has been done in the field of OMD and identifies the expected outcomes of an OMD as personal development, managerial development, team development and organizational development. It also points out the various characteristics that is required for an OMD to be branded effective and have a significant development on the participants. It then looks at the various studies that has been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of an OMD and concludes that due to sustained lack of convincing evidence, evaluation of OMD is still based on personal experiences. There needs to be more research done to get concrete proof for proving that an OMD facilitates better development by incorporating the ten factors as pointed out by McEvoy and Buller.

Outdoor management development (OMD) has become increasingly popular as a method of developing managerial effectiveness. The use of OMD seems to be increasing in step with the rapid introduction of team-oriented approaches to total quality and re-engineering initiatives in organizations (Filipczak, 1995). The power of outdoors was recognized with the inception of Outward Bound. The military incorporates the harshness and changeability of outdoors to test and challenge its members. For example, it is believed that in unfamiliar surroundings managers are stripped away from using learned ‘organizational behavior’ and fall back on behaviors that are undisguised by hierarchical or ‘classroom’ norms. By placing managers in a situation of unfamiliarity, the outdoors provides a living workshop for managing uncertainty of change- something that textbooks and lectures just cannot emulate. As a vehicle for learning it can be more powerful than classroom simulations, in that real consequences are produced by the actions (or inactions) of those involved. The transfer to management development began when trainers noticed that some elements of the Outward Bound experience were common to management practice; risk-taking, challenge, teamwork, problem solving, self-confidence, and the importance of trust (Bank, 1983).

Defining an OMD

Outdoor management education consists of a series of structured exercises, or "initiatives," which are undertaken outdoors by groups of program participants and which by their design require risk-taking, problem-solving, and teamwork for successful completion. Interspersed with these exercises are review or "debriefing" sessions in which participants analyze their experiences and share their learning with OMD colleagues (Buller, Cragun, & McEvoy, 1991).

Another definition mentions it as a set of carefully sequenced and integrated experiential learning activities conducted (primarily) in the outdoors and designed to facilitate participant behaviour change. Various experiential learning activities are used in OMD programmes, from river rafting and rock climbing to solving problems in teams with a variety of challenges (e.g. with all team members blindfolded). The activities are important only in the sense that they provide the vehicle for learning. The design, facilitation and debriefing of activities are the critical parts of the programme (McEvoy, Buller, 1997).

It includes a broad range of training interventions, premised on the assumptions of experiential learning theory, which use structured tasks and exercises as consciously designed metaphors and isomorphs of managerial and organizational processes. The training is conducted in an outdoor setting and requires some physical exertion from participants. It is often used as part of wider managerial training and development programmes, the general aims of which are to achieve improvements in organizational functioning via the transfer...

References: Badger, B., Sadler-Smith, E. and Michie. E (1997), Outdoor management development: use and evaluation, Journal of European Industrial Training
Buller, P.F., Cragun, J.R
Buller, P.F and McEvoy, G.M (1994) , The power of Outdoor management development, Journal of Management Development; 1994, Vol. 13 Issue 5, p25
Burke, V
Dainty, P. and Lucas, D., "Clarifying the Confusion: A Practical Framework for Evaluating Outdoor Development Programmes for Managers", Management Education and Development, Vol. 23 Part 2, 1992, pp. 106-22.
Dendle, E.A. (1989) Outdoor Development Training for Managers, MSc. Project, Department of Physical Education and Sports Science, Loughborough University of Technology, England.
Jones, O., “Inputs and Outcomes of Outdoor Management Development: Of Design, Dogma and Dissonance”, British Journal of Management, Vol. 18, 327–341 (2007)
Kolb, D
McEvoy, G.M (1997), Organizational Change and Outdoor Management Education, Human Resource Management (1986-1998). New York: Summer 1997. Vol. 36, Iss. 2;  pg. 235, 16 pgs
McEvoy, G.M
McEvoy, G.M., & Buller, RE (1991, March). Evaluation of an outdoor management skills training program. Paper presented, Summer 1997 at the Western Academy of Management meeting, Santa Barbara, CA.
Wagner, R.J., & Roland, C.C. (1992). How effective is outdoor training? Training & Development, 46(7), 61-66.
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