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?




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