Images of Outdoor Management Development.

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Course participants develop their own understanding of Outdoor Management Development (OMD). Devaluing their perceptions by calling it as anecdotal risks missing out on the perspective they have of OMD from their unique position. I decided that an outcome from the research would be to represent their perceptions through a summary of each interview. Following my identification of the themes and formation of the categories from the contents of the transcripts, I wrote a summary for each interview. In these summaries I attempt to pick out the key aspects of the participants' experiences conveyed in the interview on each of the individual OMD courses.

I wrote the summaries in the first person, as if the course participants spoke them. This is a practice that presents pure description taken directly from tape-recorded interviews which are edited and compiled by the researcher. (For an example of this practice, see “The Judged, Not the Judges” in Taylor and Bogdan, 1984) Writing the summaries in the voice of participants is not intended to add to the validity of the accounts, it does use the words of participants as much as possible. The summaries are set out below in full, together with details of the course participants were attending.


During each of these courses 12 people attended a course at Brathay Hall from a organisation where they worked in a `call centre'. The role they occupied at work involved answering telephone calls concerning specific products and services. The 12 participants on the course formed the complete team, comprising eleven team members and the team leader. The teams attended the course `intact'; i.e. it was a team that works together in the workplace. The 12 delegates attending on course 3 (Focus Group Interview 4) were fairly representative of the other teams. They included 8 women and 4 men, with ages ranging from 22 to 40. A team structure was being introduced to the call centre on a team by team basis. The OMD course was one of a series of courses that took place during the first few weeks of the team's existence.

There was a broad mixture of experience and expertise amongst team members. Several people from each team were from outside the organisation and were therefore new to the company as well as the job. Other people had several years' service with the company and were thought to be extremely competent in all the tasks which made up their new role. There was a wide range of familiarity with each other as colleagues. Some people had worked together for several years whilst others did not know anyone in the team when they joined.

All the team members, including the team leader, had recently been recruited to each team. Prior to the course they had spent several days together on a training programme in various settings. The training programme included practical skills training and the use of lecture style sessions to introduce new information. After the course at Brathay Hall they returned to this programme of training before moving into a new workspace which enables them to sit together.

The aims and objectives for the `Team building' course.



The courses lasted for a 3 days and followed a pre-planned timetable of course activities starting in the morning of the first day and finishing after lunch on the final day. 2 trainers worked with the 12 delegates throughout the course. I was one of the trainers on these courses.

I conducted interviews with members of three teams. Two teams were interviewed as a whole team (group interviews 1 and 4), the third was interviewed one half of the team at a time (group interviews 2 and 3). The three teams were selected for interview on the basis of access, availability and the amount of time that had elapsed since the course. However, team members were recruited following an extensive selection procedure and so the 3 teams could be said to be fairly representative of other `call centre' teams who have attended the OMD course. The teams had attended an OMD course in the 4 months preceding the focus group interviews, which were conducted in June 1996.

I conducted the focus group interviews at the delegates' workplace in a private meeting room. All the members of each team were invited, although several people were unable to attend. Between 5 and 10 team members were involved in each interview which lasted approximately 30 minutes. Initially, I explained the purpose of the interview and assured team members that the results could not be attributed to individuals. I encouraged to them to speak freely and engage in conversation with each other rather than just answer my questions. To start the interview, each member was asked to give one memory of the course. The questions, which address the principal topics of interest, were then introduced. A summary of each of the focus group discussions is contained below.


Group Interview No. 1. (10 people)

`We got a great sense of achievement from the course, especially the walk. We felt we had endured hardship together as a direct result of staying in the cottage. At various times during the course we felt under pressure, on display and tired. We got to know a lot about each other's personalities. We now know the differences between people in the team. The course gave us something we would have got eventually, just quicker. We are still learning about each other. Some people didn't like the analysis/reviews and one person didn't like any of the disclosure. We think that it is nice to know now that we can rely on each other.'

Group Interview No. 2. (5 people)

`We became friends. The course highlighted individual's strengths and weaknesses and allowed team members to ask for help openly when they found something difficult. It also pointed out how important support for each another is. Back at work the effect fell off, we did not feel as much a team now as we did at the end of the course. The course was a relaxed, non-work situation where we could get to know each other as a result of spending an extended amount of time together.'

Group Interview No. 3. (5 people)

`We are part of the same team as Group No. 2. We felt a great sense of achievement about a lot of the things we did, for instance, taking the whalers out and completing the ropes course. We relaxed more with each other than we would otherwise at work. The trainers' attitude had a big positive effect.'

Group Interview No. 4. (10 people)

`We enjoyed the amount of support, encouragement and reliance on each other, especially on the walk. There are examples of when it happens now in the workplace. We got to know each other quicker because of the course. No one thought that they were better than anyone else, everyone was equal.'


16 graduates, all recently recruited to the graduate-training programme of a company from the heavy engineering sector, attended an OMD course at Brathay Hall as part of their graduate training programme. The programme lasted for the first 2 years of their employment and included work placements in different parts of the company and attendance on a variety of external courses. The work placements were in a variety of settings including manufacturing departments, personnel, sales and design. Although the graduates did not work together as a team in the workplace, their identity as graduate trainees and their attendance on various courses together gave them the feeling that they had a lot in common. There were 14 men and 2 women, all in their early twenties. The majority had entered the company as graduates, although some had been sponsored by the company during their studies and a number had worked on a placement with the company during a `sandwich' year in their studies.

The course at Brathay Hall took place during the first year of the graduates' training programme. It aimed to provide the delegates with the chance to experience working together in teams and to practice taking various roles as a team member including the leading the team. This experience was identified as a need to help them make the transition from being self-reliant, as an undergraduate, to getting used to relying on others and being relied upon as a member of a team.

The aims and objectives for the `Graduate development' course.


To have the opportunity to learn to:

The course lasted 5 days in April 1996. It started on a Monday morning and finished on a Friday morning. It included a variety of exercises and activities as well as facilitated reviews and reflection.

I conducted interviews in September 1996, six months after the course. 10 out of the original 16 who attended the course were able to attend. They were interviewed as one group in a private meeting room and the interview lasted approximately 40 minutes. I followed the same guidelines as I had for the focus group interviews with participants from the teambuilding course.


Group Interview No. 5. (10 people)

`We were encouraged, rather than forced, by each other as well as by course staff. The supportive atmosphere enabled us to try things we were not comfortable with. The course had the effect of increasing confidence and developing good habits concerned with planning.

This was a better way of learning than being taught by sitting being told what to do in lectures. It's surprising what you learn, even when you have a laugh.

It's a chance to experiment with what you feel confident with. You can try things out for yourself and there is no come back if it didn't work and you make a mess of it. Everybody had a go at something they didn't feel comfortable with. You only get out of it what you put into it. I didn't feel pressurised to come out of my comfort zone. Everyone wanted to have a go. The trainers took a laid back approach which helped build my confidence. We discussed a lot of thing quite openly and everyone said what he or she was and was not comfortable with. Everyone picked up on what other people were not comfortable with and encouraged them to have a go.

We learnt from the reviews, sitting down and saying what is right and wrong. You can apply those things from the review to anything, even though they were outdoor activities you can apply them to any team exercise. You discover them for yourself rather than being taught. We were sort of being taught because we were being pointed in the right direction.

What did we learn from it? How to plan as a way of thinking. To look ahead and think of the consequences. To stand back and review and say who is going to do what. The course also increased peoples' confidence levels.

How does it apply to work? Subconsciously. One of my objectives was to plan more, I've done that but I didn't make a conscious decision to, it just came naturally. I know my confidence has increased but I don't know if it's a result of the course.'


Seven people from a local authority attended a course together at Brathay Hall. The OMD course was a part of the one-year course they were all attending at a local college of higher education which led to a Certificate in Management Studies. The 7 participants were all male, were of ages ranging from 25 to 48. They were all managers and had held management or supervisory positions for various lengths of time. They worked in different departments to each other and all except two people worked in the same building. The course tutor from the college of higher education also attended the OMD course as an observer.

The Certificate in Management Studies course covered a variety of subjects concerning management and included practical work as well as lectures and written assignments. The seven delegates had been given the task of commissioning and selecting the OMD course they wished to attend as a project in itself.

The course took place during the latter part of their year of study and was intended to act as a practical way to increase their understanding and skills in the main areas of study concerning working with other members of staff. The course had the following formal aims and outcomes:

The aims and objectives for the `Management skills' course


To develop the management skills of students in the areas of leadership, people management, team building and motivation.


By the end of the programme, participants will have:

In addition to the aims and objectives stated above, each person was asked what they wanted to get from the course.

The course took place in March 1997 and lasted for 3 days, starting in the afternoon of the first day and finishing in the afternoon of the third day. I conducted individual interviews with participants, two months after the course in May 1997. Each delegate was interviewed separately in a private room, at their workplace.


One-to-one Interview No. 6.

`The course gave some ideas on why people act the way they do when they are together. I enjoyed the reviews, you gave us information, we dealt with it and then reviewed it. It makes you sit back and realise the importance of feedback. It also helped me notice what sort of person I am, what some of my traits are. For instance, I get very frustrated and want to get in and do things. I enjoyed the feedback, I find it difficult to criticise and analyse myself. Since the course, I have used the feedback I received from others.

I haven't yet had a chance to put things into effect. The way I work with my team and other departments has changed since the course. There were a few relationships I wanted to sort out. They haven't changed but something is definitely happening. I look more at trying to help the people I'm with and see what they want to do rather than just throwing work at them.'

One-to-one Interview No. 8.

`We looked at each other and gave each other feedback. One learning point was that communication was important, making sure people understand your idea as well as what you are saying and how frustrating it is when you can't get your message across. We were in a different mode to when we're at work.'

One-to-one Interview No. 9.

`What I got from the course was a greater understanding of why I do what I do. It made me understand that what I do is manage, when I thought it was organising. There were quite strong parallels with what I do here. I now take on team leader role more consciously rather than unconsciously.

I was quite daunted before the course. The reviews were important and perhaps we should do more of that at work.'

One-to-one Interview No. 10.

`It was more useful than sitting and being lectured at. The feedback I received was useful as was remembering how important team working is. I feel more self-confident now and think more about working with other people. It was good at the end to reflect on everything and write it all down in an action plan.'

One-to-one Interview No. 11.

`Following the course I manage people differently, I look for things people do well and allocate tasks according to the skills people have. I enjoyed the theory side. I don't think I've changed that much. It has given me confidence to know what I'm good at.'

One-to-one Interview No. 12.

`I've realised my style doesn't always fit so well at work and have taken some steps back. Before the course I never realised what effect I have on people. I preferred the active way of learning rather than lectures.'


These summaries helped me identify themes and conceptual labels during the early stages of the content analysis. Only later did I decide that they are a set of results which stand by themselves. I had a long debate about whether I should write them in the first or second person. My decision is apparent, and my explanation, that they lose some of the immediacy written any other way, still leaves me with a concern that I may be seen to be intending to add to their validity by writing in this way.

At first they didn't feel like the finding from a thesis. However, participants' descriptive accounts of their experiences are a result, which is end in itself. Perhaps they add a balance to the risk of any aspects of my analysis, which adopts an approach which is over mechanistic.

Philip Donnison

October 2000

Introduction Contents Abstract What is OMD? Literature Methodology Conclusions Contact Me