A Learning Strategy is About People

Learning is connecting

I wrote a post about why workplace learning is complicated and it could apply to most workplace scenarios because working and learning are all about people. 

Ajay Pangarkar and Teresa Kirkwood recently questioned if this perception is deserved.  This is a good question and they have some good suggestions for making workplace learning less complicated, as follows:

  • Learning professionals should increase their business literacy (use business terms and communicate results)
  • Demonstrate improved employee performance
  • Keep it simple

I agree with this advice and think there are pieces missing. You can do the three things above and still be unsuccessful. What’s missing reminds me of the quote, “no plan of the enemy ever survives contact with the enemy.”

Here’s my workplace version of this quote,

“no strategy ever survives contact with the people who must implement it.”

Demonstrating improved employee performance assumes that people are doing something different (i.e., change). The act of conducting proper analysis and creating a solution to meet business objectives is not the most difficult part.

It’s the people part of this process and the implementation of the solution (also a people component) that are most challenging.

People aren’t as rationale as you might think (including me, you and your business partners).  So, even if you use the right terms and present a strategy that works, it may not be accepted or implemented.

There are many reasons why it may not move forward, a few examples:

  • Your learning solution that will reduce costs because it requires less travel for business SME’s – did you know that the SME’s (and their manager) love to travel? They don’t want this to be virtual.
  • The learning strategy you’re presenting to a business leader – he/she may not trust you because you’ve never been in the business or performed the business role. Even if you use the right business terms and can articulate results.
  • The part of your strategy (that the business sponsor likes) which relies on managers to coach and reinforce – the managers are too busy and don’t have time.

You can minimize complexity and increase your odds for success by:

  • Being where the business is and is going to be.
  • Acting as a confident learning business partner, not an order taker.
  • Focusing on what the business thinks is a priority and not your own priorities.
  • Even if you focus on business priorities, you still need to focus (you can’t do everything).
  • Finding business coach – what matters from a business perspective, who are the real influencers?
  • Finding a cultural coach – what are the unspoken norms that can take years to realize?
  • Getting out and seeing people do their jobs, ask questions, listen to their challenges.
  • Building relationships and trust with your partners.
  • Realize that if it is approved, it has a long way to go before it’s adopted.
  • Getting managers involved – do they understand the why and how of the strategy?
  • Setting expectations with your business partners early in the process and revisit – do partners understand and agree to their role and commitment in the process.

What do you think?

Above are some examples  that have worked for me.  There are many other ways to minimize complexity – based on your experience, what has worked for you?


Week in Review 090714

Things I found online this week that caught my attention.  How about you? What did you discover?

@JD_Dillon Again, learning doesn’t change. Our understanding and ability to support it will hopefully become more effective.

World in Beta from @hjarche  In a world exploding with potential, the way you embrace emerging technology, and the transformations it causes, will greatly affect your business. Be ready. Be part of it.

3 Issues Should Occupy Managers Over the Next 50 Years from @NimbleAtWork “the best leaders of the future will spend half their time reading books.” – Tom Peters

The Best Leaders Are Insatiable Learners from Bill Taylor “So what is the opposite of boredom, the personal attribute that allows individuals to keep learning, growing, and changing, to escape their fixed attitudes and habits?”

Jane Hart’s Must Reads from August 2014 from @C4LPT

Our Cyborg Future from 

cy·borg /ˈsīˌbôrg/ noun

1. a person whose physiological functioning is aided by or dependent upon a mechanical or electronic device;

2. a person whose physical tolerances or capabilities are extended beyond normal human limitations by a machine or other external agency that modifies the body’s functioning; an integrated man–machine system.




My Top Learning Tools for 2014

It’s that time of year again! Jane Hart’s Top 100 Learning Tools. I enjoy sharing my tools and seeing what other tools people find most useful to them.  If you haven’t contributed, there’s still time. Here’s my list, in no particular order: Twitter – my social stream YouTube – great tool for visual and hands on learning […]

[Continue reading…]

Search Isn’t the Answer for Everything

search isnt the answer for everything
[Continue reading…]

Learning is Connecting

Learning is connecting
[Continue reading…]

Learning Mindset

learning mindset


[Continue reading…]

What if we train them

what if we train them
[Continue reading…]

10 Thoughts to Begin Your Week

[Continue reading…]

Freestyle Work

If Tom Petty wrote a song about the the future workplace it might be called Freestyling, “now I’m free…freestyling.” In Average is Over, Tyler Cowen compares freestyle chess to how people might work in the future. Freestyle chess is a type of chess where players use computers and other people to support their decisions in making […]

[Continue reading…]

Reminders for Workplace Learning Professionals

We all get caught up in our day to day work. Here are some things to keep in mind during your daily journey. What reminders do you have? Learning is not about learning, it’s about performance. Often times you have to move backwards with your partners before moving forward. Use terms that resonate with your […]

[Continue reading…]