For the first time in over 25 years, ITC will be evolving its training methodology for frontline managers into a theatre and drama-based programme. The training later this month will cover influencing, negotiation, conflict resolution and assertive communication. Similarly, Hindustan Aeronautics will have its batch of management trainees prepare a script based on a management book such as Subroto Bagchi's, 'The Professional' or Dr John Kotter's, 'Our Iceberg Is Melting', and present it as a 45- minute play at the end of the month. Its senior managers will have theatre based programmes for conflict management, while engineers will have similar modules for creativity and collaboration.
Over the past two to three years, theatre-based corporate training in India has evolved from role plays, ice-breakers and team- building activities into a serious tool. Companies are using it for everything from behavioral adaptation, change management and leadership skills development to handling cultural and personal issues. "The goal is to lead a participant to an independent evaluation of life events and choices that impact their work and professional behavior," says Mohan Madgulkar, a human resource studies professor at Symbiosis, an actor, and India manager of STEPS Drama. Watching experiences from outside and discussing them triggers introspection, akin to watching a movie you relate to, he adds.
A number of theatre-based corporate training firms have sprung up in the past three years. STEPS Drama, which rakes in an annual revenue of 2 million pounds from its corporate theatre programmes, opened its only subsidiary outside the UK, in India, after a training programme for HSBC in 2010. Ranji David, an actor and a former senior training manager at Tech Mahindra, left his job six months ago to focus on his theatre-based training venture, Yours Truly Theatre. According to him, business has been good. David has trained employees of Nokia India and Puma through organizational restructuring, as well as employees in ICICI Manipal, HAL, ITC, Infosys and Wipro over the past two years. Intel uses it for management training at various levels. Its theatre training vendor uses research to develop customized people management case studies. "The aim of the programme is to depict the importance of certain behaviors and equip the audience with techniques that help understand the most relevant aspects of managing teams," says Preethi Madappa, HR director, Intel India.
Target, on the other hand, uses it for diversity training. Drama-based training "is an effective model to be implemented for topics or themes that may have multiple viewpoints," says Andi Marston, human resource director, Target India. Theatre is also becoming increasingly relevant in dealing with personal and psychological issues, which are not very easy to handle directly. "More often than not, people can differentiate between a good and a bad behavior, and even more so when they are watching from outside in a safe, anonymous environment," says Robbie Swales, a British actor and founder of STEPS. Before the training, STEPS interviews individual participants, their bosses and the HR department, and the data is put together in the form of a dramatic performance. "It is a subtle representation of facts, just enough to have people identify with it," he adds.
TKoshy, a senior faculty member at HAL Management Academy, who has been one of the drivers of theatrebased learning in the organization, says they have just started to discover the power of enactment. "If you ask me what HAL uses theatre for in two years' time, we will have found a much wider array of applications," he says.