PPP Healthcare Group Plc Use SML

PPP healthcare group plc have introduced the SML approach throughout the business beginning with the senior management or ‘forum’ group. This is comprised of directors and senior managers who are usually heads of departments. Ian Cunningham, on behalf of Strategic Developments, has been assisting with the development of this programme.


About the process

Our SML approach is call ‘PDfB’ – ‘Personal Development for Business’. It has been designed to cater for the differing needs and skills of our total staff population. The underlying principle is consistent with SML approaches generally in that people have a responsibility for their own learning and should be given the tools and techniques to be able to decide what they need to learn, how they intend to learn it and when they will participate in that learning. An assumption made in our organisation is that because we are required to work together, the mutual assistance in developing each other needs is an extension of that philosophy.

Some underlying assumptions are that:

  • People learn from a range of sources not just courses
  • What is taught is not equal to what is learned
  • Individuals have the primary responsibility for their own performance, development and job satisfaction
  • Energy for performance improvement is generated by commitment to personal motivators

The PDfB process has therefore been designed to help people think about how they learn best and enable them to plan their own learning opportunities as appropriate. The learning goals are detailed, on an individual basis, in a personal strategic learning contract. These contracts are not constrained at all, although help is given to individuals by way of providing a 360 degree review and feedback as well as a whole range of diagnostic tools and instruments which participants can choose to use.

The objectives for the PDfB process are:

  1. To promote a culture of continuous learning and development
  2. To link personal development to the needs of the business
  3. To encourage individual ownership of personal development
  4. To facilitate cross functional support and networking
  5. To provide a cost effective basis for organisational development

Current Position

To date 100 senior managers from around the group have begun PDfB and are at varying stages in the evolution of their own learning groups and contracts. There are 20 learning groups (sets) and 14 different learning group advisers.

A further 15 senior managers will be attending their ‘start up’ workshop in October and 3 new ‘learning group advisers’ (set advisers) will be beginning work.


We have collected the findings in a number of ways:-

  1. Initial feedback from the workshops is useful because it gives a ‘first glance’ at people’s views of our approach. Amendments to the workshop, which is critical to the overall success of this process, have been made on a number of occasions following feedback.
  2. We have asked learning group advisers to collate feedback from each participant on PDfB based around a number of themes.
  • What have you gained from the process so far?
  • What benefit has this been to the business?
  • What would you do to change the PDfB process?
  • What advice would you give to other managers considering beginning this process?

We will give a more detailed view of this feedback at the forthcoming presentation.  However here is a brief summary of our feedback so far.

Advantages and Business Benefits of Process

Whilst we are at an early stage in the process it is clear that many people are gaining substantial personal development benefit. Considerable tangible benefits to the business are emerging in line with our expectations. The advantages as viewed by delegates so far fall into several categories:

  • Networking
  • Broader business understanding
  • Clearer focus on development needs
  • Personal ownership of development
  • Value in sharing and gaining feedback/support from colleagues

There are a number of managers so far who are finding it more difficult to engage in the process than their peers. The overwhelming majority involved find the learning group process a huge benefit, yet after the workshop there are those who find it difficult to give time to progressing their contracts.

The more managers who become involved in PDfB the more likely that learning group meetings and contracts will be considered part of the way we do things in PPP. Measurement and publishing of successes from this process need to take place to raise public awareness of the importance and value of PDfB.

Opportunities for further development

It was originally envisaged that once the learning groups had finished their initial 9-12 months cycle we would consider alternative approaches to encourage people to continue their development. We are approaching that time now and a process of review and evaluation endorsement had been designed.

A number of endorsement events where the following happens are being planned, with the first scheduled for the 3 September 1997:

  • 5/6 learning groups meet together for the final learning group meeting in one venue
  • Endorsement of strategic learning contracts is undertaken at these meetings. This means that each participant prepares a ‘portfolio’ which details what they have learnt v their contracts. Portfolios can be presented in any format the individual chooses and the group will endorse learning.
  • After each meeting has officially ended, each learning group will be briefed to prepare a short presentation to our Chief Executive Peter Owen summarising the following:
  • What they have gained as indivduals and as a group
  • What the business can expect to see as a result of this
  • What their plans are in terms of the future

‘Closing off the beginning’ will be concluded by Peter Owen giving a speech on his views of learning and development in organisations and congratulating the group on finishing the ‘beginning’.


The SML process for the senior managers is working well with the vast majority of the Management Forum delegates involved in learning groups. We now need to implement the alternative options for those managers approaching the end of the first 12 month cycle.

Rob Shorrick
Group Development & Training
PPP healthcare group plc