Standing the test of time

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, IRO is one of the UK’s longest
standing management development programmes. Running eight times a year, with up
to 12 participants, it has contributed to the development of more than 2,000

"IRO is not a tutor-led programme where people are told how to go out
and build effective relationships," said Andy Smith, Roffey Park’s
programme director for IRO. "It’s a highly reflective and
personally-focused programme. It provides participants with the in-depth
feedback they need to increase awareness and choices about how they can build
better relationships at work.

"Participants find out how others perceive them and what it is about
them that creates such perceptions."

Paradoxically, IRO combines continuity and change – continuity because it
retains its 25-year-old design, originally influenced by Gestalt, Transactional
Analysis and T-Groups approaches. Continuity too because the development of
interpersonal skills remains critical to business success. But also change
because of the type of people who now attend and the issues they now bring.

"One tends to think of management development trends as fast moving.
Yet here you have a 25-year-old programme which is still highly relevant
because it has tracked the changing world of work," Smith said.

"Organisations are far more multicultural, multinational and complex
now. There’s much greater emphasis on influencing without authority,
organisational politics and cross cultural working."

In IRO’s early years, the participants were typically white, English,
middle-class male managers drawn from a group of well-established companies.
Many of them were "sent" on the programme as a remedial step to bring
their lacking interpersonal skills up to scratch.

Today most participants are still middle and senior managers. However the
majority now nominate themselves to attend as they believe that improving the
way they build relationships will be key to further success and progress. The
groups are much more diverse, with more women, nationalities, cultures and
types of business represented.

"IRO is not a superficial programme, its approach does not suit
everyone. That’s why we take pains to explain to people its special
nature," said Smith.

"For those who attend, it provides a profound learning experience. We
know that it has enabled many managers to change their behaviour and achieve
greater success. It has made a huge contribution to the world of management

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