Sony plays a new game

Simon Kent looks at how the Consumer Business Group at Sony Europe
introduced experimental training methods to employees from the eastern areas of
the continent

When Sony Europe set out to develop leadership skills within its eastern
Europe managers, they wanted an event which would be a memorable experience.
The intervention had to engage participants, giving them valuable experience
and learning they could take back to the organisation in their own country.

According to Dipayan Roy, senior manager for training and development of the
Consumer Business Group for Sony Europe, the final intervention, completed this
summer, had its genesis two years previously with an extensive competency
assessment exercise. This research helped the organisation identify areas which
would be important to the development of the company in the future.

"We used self-assessment, behavioural event interviews and
consultations among managing directors and many other people who worked with
these people on a daily basis," says Roy. Faced with increasing
competition and a rapidly changing market place, these managers were seen to
have a very specific and important role to play within their organisations.
"The programme we wanted to design had to focus on giving these managers
the skills needed to lead change, rather than just enduring change,"
explains Roy, "We needed something which would push them outside their
usual comfort zones but which would ensure the entire experience could be
transferred back to the workplace."

Sony defined the required leadership competency as the ability to set a
vision and high standards and to convince others to strive towards those
objectives. "It involves motivation skills and the ability to empower
teams to make sure the desired results are achieved," says Roy. At the
same time, given the shifting economies of eastern Europe, the company also needed
a competency it called ‘building capability’ – an entrepreneurial skill through
which the managers could raise the capability of others while providing

Having identified these two areas, the company turned to experiential
trainers Impact, which provided two development modules over four months.
Addressing 25 participants from Sony sales, HR and other functions in Poland,
the Slovak and Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and Russia,
the first of these modules lasted three days and focused on each participant’s
personal performance – increasing self-awareness.


The second module, lasting four-and-a-half days, addressed how each
individual operated as a leader. While Impact’s characteristic experiential
style of learning involved participants practically in experimenting with
different approaches to this skill, the second module featured a great deal of
theory, including an introduction to ’emotional intelligence’. "The
requirement for theory came from the participants," notes Andy Ligema, an
Impact facilitator on the project. "We didn’t use much theory in the first
module but by module two, there was a clear demand for material on leading and
managing change."

While similar Western-based programmes have touched on the theory as well as
the practical aspect of leadership, it was clear Sony’s eastern European
participants had less knowledge in this area. "They hadn’t had much
exposure to these approaches," says Ligema. "Some had virtually none,
so we needed to introduce and demonstrate the concepts."

Most importantly, Sony ensured classroom learning was both supported by and
directly affected the business by establishing individual projects for each
participant to begin and continue alongside the development intervention. The
projects were split between initiatives which the managers had to address in
the course of their work and new initiatives derived by the individual

"We had the option of creating projects specifically for development
purposes" says Roy, "But this way we could identify things that were
important to those managers and assess what was not being done within the
organisation." While the projects were revisited during Impact’s second
module, they were not designed to terminate with the development programme but
to go on into the future, delivering business gains.

"Not only did we set up these projects for each individual, but we made
sure the business would champion each project," says Roy. This approach
increased the value managers felt the organisation attached to their
development and made them realise the contribution they could make to the
business. It demonstrated that the organisation wanted to benefit from their
increased leadership skills.

Feedback from the course has been extremely positive. The managers involved
have reported increased awareness of the impact they have on the people around
them, are more confident in their leadership and feel supported by the
organisation, not least through the network of managers the modules have established.

"The fact the business projects identified are clearly moving forward
is extremely encouraging," says Roy.

"It shows the initiative has got the right balance. We have our
managers’ endorsement, while also improving performance within the organisation
itself," he adds.

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