Regardless of the learning technologies that have become available and the ability to access them, we still find the biggest barrier to success is business buy in.

This year, I will be co-ordinating a session on Learning Technologies in the real world with contributions from 2 great organisations - Toyota and NCALT - who were both honoured in last Novembers e-learning awards for widespread adoption. *

We want this interactive session to be really practical - now more than ever we need our solutions to be used and acted upon & every intervention has to count in 2009 - so tell us how we can help.

What have your biggest challenges been in engaging learners, managers and training staff in your organisation?
What tips can you pass on?

we'd love to hear from you!

* - ( see for more detail on our session.

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In my view, business leaders and managers are L&D's most important constituency - the 'learners' are further down the list. Without manager engagement and active support we're wasting our time doing anything. Learning professionals can produce the most highly-crafted learning content/programmes etc. and they won't have ANY impact if the content and process isn't clearly linked (and seen to be linked) to solving a business need/problem in the mind of the manager.

So we need to focus on engaging manager first-and-foremost.

I've always asked managers who come knocking on doors looking for 'training' the simple question "what will happen if we do nothing?" - this links to Donald Clark's 'start by stopping' approach. If they can't provide an answer, I'd recommend we do nothing.

If they see 'training' as some type of panacea to their business problem, without having carried out any root cause analysis then I'd usually recommend we spend a couple of hours in a performance consulting meeting. Nigel Harrison's Performance Consulting methodology is the one I tend to use - it's a very good, simple and effective one. You can read about the methodology on Nigel's website ( but the basic steps involved are to sit down with the manager (I often get the manager's team involved as well) and determine the following with them:

[1] who's involved in the problem (i.e. are we talking about a few critical employees who are underperforming, or a large number who are directly and indirectly involved - inside and outside the manager's team)

[2] what they're currently doing (i.e. why is performance sub-optimal - and how is this impacting the business)

[3] what the manager needs them to be doing (i.e. the 'end state' when everything is working perfectly)

[4] the cost to the business if we do nothing. (i.e. is this a business problem worth solving?)

[5] whether the problem is caused by one or a combination of the 4 basic issues underlying all problems with human performance:
(a) lack if knowledge - they don't know what to do
(b) lack of skill - they know what they should do, but can't execute to the required standard
(c) lack of motivation
(d) some other 'environmental' factor is stopping them from performing - lack of clear objectives, unusable processes, no feedback, poor technology, inadequate tools or resources, task interference, administrative obstacles etc. etc.

If the root cause of the problem is primarily (c) or (d) then training certainly isn't going to solve it. If it's (a) or (b), then often some input from learning professionals will assist. Only then, can you start to think about developing some L&D solutions.
A great contribution, Charles, and an excellent summary of the process of performance analysis.
You associate these steps with "Nigel Harrison's Performance Consulting methodology". In fact the model comes from the published work of Bob Mager and Peter Pipe. Their seminal book, "Analyzing Performance Problems" was published in 1983 by The Center for Effective Performance Inc. The published work was originally under ISBN 1-56103-336-7. Now it forms part of the "Mager six pack" which also includes great pieces on "Goal Analysis", "Measuring Instructional Results" and "Preparing Instructional Objectives". The last mentioned is the basis of the approach of many, if not most, corporate Training Departments, even though they may not be aware of it. Some say there is nothing new under the sun and you can go further back to the 1950s for the work of a whole fraternity of Human Performance Consultants, much of whose work was inspired by the genius of the late Tom Gilbert, see "Human Competence: Engineering Worthy Performance", Thomas F. Gilbert, Pfeiffer (March 1, 1996), ISBN 978-0961669010. The organisation which carries the torch for this approach and keeps tight rein on standards and integrity and has an accreditation scheme for practitioners is the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI).
I know I'm coming late to this conversation, but I wonder if we shouldn't turn this 'engagement' idea the other way.

Instead of looking for ways to engage the business in L&D, I can't help thinking we should be looking for ways for L&D to engage with the business.

At the moment, the L&D people are not seen as having a role to play in setting business strategy. We're the people they come to when they have set their goals and don't look like meeting them. Then they come to us and (as Charles so eloquently illustrates) tell us they want a training course that will address X, Y and Z. L&D is seen as something of an annex of the sort you rent out when you're a bit strapped for cash. We need to find a way to move into the main house. And we can only do that by getting on board with what's important to the people who live there. We need to buy-in to their programmes, rather than the other way around.



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