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CMI Diploma in Management and Leadership (level 5)

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Insitution: Chartered Management Institute / Type: CMI Diploma

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      03.05.2012 20:22
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      If you want to take your leadership skills up a level, consider this

      Over the years, the single thing that's kept me from spending more time scribbling for Dooyoo has been studying. Not content with an epic MSc (which years on I'm almost finished...! ;)) via distance learning, over the past year or so I also 'found' (!) the time to complete a Level 5 Diploma in Management and Leadership. I must be mad! ;)


      ~SIGNING UP~
      My own experience is probably not typical, but it does colour a lot of this review so let's get it in at the start! My current role was not just a job, but part of a whole scheme aimed at semi-fast tracking 'the Leaders of the Future' (and more generally at recent graduates rather than aging students like me!). Sponsorship for this diploma was part of the 'deal', and included organised residential courses (plus time to attend them!).

      More generally, the qualification follows a standard framework (set by the CMI - see below) and is thus offered by many different training providers and many colleges/universities, some of whom also offer distance learning options. The course content is modular, so it should be possible to pick up a few modules at a time, rather than going straight for the full thing - you would have to check overall time constraints with your provider, however!

      Even though the qualification is standard, it's worth really checking into any training provider before signing up. What level of support are they offering? My own experience, with residential courses, was brilliant at making the whole process more interesting and less of a struggle, particularly as the tutors had ample experience to pass on in what the assessors were looking for with different question types.

      Costs vary (certain universities offer modules for ~£30 each - students: get a couple under your belt while they're cheap!), but expect to pay around £2500 for the full qualification.


      ~AUDIENCE~
      According to the CMI website, this qualification is designed for middle managers looking to head towards senior management. This utterly contradicts my own experience BUT it is *essential* to have some kind of management experience (and probably current!) to gain this level! One of the mandatory modules (see below) is to conduct a management project: my own work role (which I did tell you was a bit weird!) is set up as a project, and while not actually a full manager I am managing this particular project. You do have to be talking about a real experience, past or preferably present, in the assessment - not just theory.

      That said, my previous employer wouldn't consider promoting staff to manager level unless they already had management experience - total Catch-22! I would suggest, then, that if you find yourself in a similar circumstance, it might indeed be worth looking at this qualification alongside asking for some increased responsibility to mimic that management role over a project, at least. Indeed, several of the modules could well be taken as a slow build up to proving your commitment (as well as earning towards a Certificate or Award).


      ~QUALIFICATION LEVEL~
      So, backing up a bit: what's a 'level 5' diploma? The UK National Qualifications Framework has nine levels, from entry level all the way up to PhDs. Level five covers HNCs, HNDs, and Professional Diplomas. To put that into perspective, an undergraduate degree (BA, BSc) is level 6, and a masters-level post-graduate degree (my other current studying!) will garner me a level 7. I feel like I should be calling 'house'! ;)

      As this qualification is regulated by the Chartered Management Institute, the diploma in addition to three years management experience (which I don't have) entitles you to apply to become a Chartered Manager.


      ~CONTENT~
      There are 22 different modules that can go towards making up the diploma (although not every training provider offers all of them!), each earning between 6 and 10 credits. The diploma is awarded on passing 9 of these modules with a minimum of 62 credits. The undertaken modules must also meet the category requirements: all of the core group A, one of the two from group B, and then three of your own choice from group C.

      This makes the course quite flexible, and appropriate to the needs of different kinds of managers. The core content ensures a certain foundation level, and covers:
      - Personal development as a manager and leader
      - Information based decision making
      - Resource management
      - Meeting stakeholder and quality needs
      - Conducting a management project

      However, the final category allows for specialisation, e.g.: HR, operational risk management, or the more intriguing ethical organisational management or managing innovation!

      If you start but don't finish you can still apply for one of the lower qualifications. Completion of any unit (apart from some of those more esoteric ones!) will achieve an Award; 13 credits (any two, almost) will gain you a Certificate. Quite a jump, then, up to the Diploma!

      I didn't get any choice in my selection of modules, but even the horrendous (!) Marketing module (I'm sure several of my classmates felt the same about the Finance module!) gave me a valuable insight into the different areas a manager should be considering. A lot of the material came down to common sense (keeping stakeholders informed, following legal requirements, etc), but even at that the reminder that all these different strands formed part of any decision, any consideration - all valuable training!

      I could go into great detail about the content of any/all of the individual units, but this review is already horrendously long and such information can be found online (see link below). I will comment, however, that expertise in the topic was not required beforehand (see me + marketing!) and nor were you left an expert in the topic at the end: the point was to introduce you to the management-level knowledge needed, so for instance the finance module made you aware of how the different accounting components fit together and how to 'read' them, rather than expecting you to end up as an accountant!


      ~ASSESSMENT~
      Each unit and question within came with very prescriptive assessment criteria, but specifics on how these were engaged can apparently depend on your training Centre/provider: exams, reports and role-play are all apparently acceptable! For me, I undertook four written assignments covering 2 modules each (3 for the last one). The questions had to be answered to hit the key points, linking theory to real-life practice from my own experience/job. I also had to provide sample documents, e.g. marketing plan. There were also very strict word counts, which turned into some of the biggest challenges!

      I don't know if it was just my training Centre (unlikely), but there was no real concept of 'failure' - if you didn't pass on first attempt, then you were given feedback on where you'd missed the criteria and a second chance to submit. In my own case, I missed the point of one question, and was able to give a fuller answer to the examiner over the phone in order to pass!


      ~RECOGNITION~
      All of which is very nice, but what value does it have in the Real World?

      As mentioned, my own circumstance (and the rest of my 'classmates'!) is a little odd. I will be looking to use this qualification as 'proof' of my ability to take on a first management role. This clearly isn't how the diploma was intended as without management experience you really couldn't hope to pass the module on conducting a management project - Catch-22!

      More generally:
      On the negative side, I doubt many employers have heard of this so it's hardly a guarantee of a plush job. However, my own feelings were that any qualification was better than none in showing your aptitudes - and this *is* of provable quality - and further, it does expose you to a lot of very real and useful theory that can only make you a better manager!

      There are two sides to it for me: most obviously is proving you're trying to educate yourself in preparation for more responsibility - a step up the management ladder. I suspect it's more valuable in my own case, where I don't have years of experience to put forward instead. However, it certainly can't hurt your chances of going for promotion, and might differentiate you from the competition for those rare vacancies!

      Still, management is a discipline in and of itself, and I would argue that exposure to education in the topic can only be a good thing! I have had the misfortune to work for several managers throughout my career who seemed to prove the idiom, "promoted to your level of incompetence" - people who are promoted for career longevity, or being excellent technically at the role they are now expected to manage. A paper qualification doesn't necessarily mean performance improvement, but it'd be a start!


      ~CONCLUSION~
      If you're looking for something to nudge your career up a notch, or just as valuably to put your current role on more solid foundations, I would thoroughly recommend the CMI Diploma. I've read lots of management tomes over the course of it all, but none really give you that feeling of proper understanding as being challenged to present your knowledge - with proper examples - to an external assessor!

      On top of a new job and ongoing commitments to a post-graduate degree, this turned into a lot more work than I really expected! That said, getting notification that I'd successfully been awarded my Diploma last month was rather thrilling - I genuinely feel better prepared to take on management responsibility, confident that I have a much wider view of what such a role should encompass. Nothing will beat experience, but knowledge of the theory and 'best practice' certainly provides a much better foundation for being a GOOD manager: of people, of projects and workflow, and ultimately of myself, too!



      ~USEFUL LINKS~

      CMI website: www.managers.org.uk

      In-depth guide including all modules and their descriptors, full assessment guidelines, etc (remove spaces):
      www.managers.org.uk/ training-development-qualifications/ personal-development/ qualifications/ level-5-qualifications-mana-0

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