Hi all,

Looking forward to visiting London again!! We've had a rather brutal winter here in Manitoba (Canada), so the opportunity to escape our weather is an extra reward :).

I have a fairly broad topic for the conference, encompassing courses, strategy, technology trends, and a dash of ROI.

The need for learning and development to serve strategy and organizational goals is obvious. But. It has become much harder to develop a strategy. Things just keep changing. Technology keeps disrupting. Social, political, economic, and learning trends contribute to the lack of stable foundation. What are organizations to do? Or, more aptly, what should organizations 'be'?

I'd love to hear thoughts/reactions from others before/during/after the event.


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George, thanks for setting up this discussion, which I think is crucial to the growth of L&D in 2009. My take is that L&D departments definitely need a strategy, but they also need other things, too: a clear method for tactical engagement with the business, and a shift in focus from development and deployment to supporting performance.
Hi Don -

Agreed. Organizations require a strategy. The question is how to go about creating something that is flexible enough to change as externals change. For example, organizations like AT&T and Microsoft used to be able to impose its will on the market place...they were able to set a strategy and then enact it. To varying degrees this is still possible today, but the last several years have produced greater complexity (society, technology, globalization, learning research) than we have ever seen. How, in the face of this complexity and uncertainty, are organizations to create and enact strategy? That is at least partly the focus of my presentation...but it does raise the need to reconsider fundamentals (i.e. a knowable world, alignment, hierarchical planning, etc) that we currently assume as givens in our strategy-making.

I guess a few organisations are in the "we haven't seen it yet" category (i.e. the recession); but for most of us, that's not the case. In normal times, "do we need a strategy?" is a no brainer - "of course"!!! But these aren't normal times. To my mind issue 1 is survival - and any skills gaps that will inhibit the chances of survival are critical. Issue 2 is when we come out of this recession (remember it started almost 2 years ago!) we'll be "leaner and meaner". But what will "leaner and meaner" look like and what skills issues does that raise. Beyond a strategy for those 2 points, do we need a strategy? I know how I'd vote!!!

And specifically to George, may I add that the concept of getting away from bad weather by coming to London in January is novel in the extreme; but however cold it is outside you can be sure of a warm welcome at Olympia!
Hi Alan - when I left Winnipeg, we had the joys of -42C (windchill). So, while coming to London for nice weather may appear extreme, my context was such that it makes a lot of sense :).

It's easy to agree with your statement that "these aren't normal times". The big question we're facing: are these times so unusual that they require us to reconsider how our organizations are structured (in creating and achieving strategy...but more specifically, in how training and development supports strategy achievement)...or are we able to "ride it out" with existing approaches?
I don't think that developing a strategy should be harder. Technology should be getting better, so any strategy developed should be able to absorb new technologies which will only improve the goals.
I agree! for me an L&D and an E-learning strategy are crucial for not only the growth of L&D but also the change in culture of L&D. Employee engagement & Motivation to learn, accessability & flexible learning practices, ROI, e-learning platforms are the key area of interest for this strategy.
In fast changing times like these, I think it can be quite risky to stick to a rigid strategy. I once heard a motivational speaker (Robin Sieger) talk about having a 'rubber plan'. It needs to be clear in its goals, but be flexible enough to deal with the unexpected - be that the negative elements of an economic downturn or the positive opportunities of a new technology.

I would go so far as saying that a rigid strategy will stifle innovation and growth, and ultimately lead to failure.

By all means, have a goal; a vision of what you want to (need to?) achieve, but have the courage to start making progress even though you have no clear idea how that goal will be achieved.

John Lennon could easily have been talking about business when he said "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans".
Hi Barry - your emphasis on not having a rigid strategy resonates with me. I wonder, however, what a flexible strategy looks like. Or, for that matter, what is a rigid strategy? A key goal of organizations is to manage the chaos so as to produce a consistent outcome (and profit, of course). Organizations as we have them today are about seeking to control circumstances in order to produce duplicate-able results. How can we do that with a flexible strategy? What part of the strategy is it that needs to be flexible? How it's achieved? What it is? Resource allocations?
Hi George - I think the bit that interests me the most is your last sentence. (Although all the other bits are worth discussion too). We are now in an age and online opportunity to take advantage of what you ask for: a before/during/after the event.
I call this the PAP model (Pre-At-Post).
I make mention of this approach to online pedagogy at
Hope we can continue this discussion at the conf.
Hi Skip - the pre-during-post conference discussions are valuable. Credit to the conference organizers in setting this up.

One drawback - and yes, would love to discuss more - is the limited participation. i don't know how many have registered for LT09...but if previous experience is an indication, only a few dozen will participate in the online component. Perhaps that's ok...
George, thank you for a fascinating key note that I think gave everyone some new stuff to think about, and lays down this challange: Is L&D now about being the custodian of learning and the supporter of learning connections? If so, where do we start making it happen within our own organisations?
One of the main things which struck a chord with me during George's session (and others) was the need to redefine the learning and development function - from content provider to learning enabler. This seemed (to me) the clear implication of what George was talking about when he referred to decentralising the L+D function, but retaining some vestige of centralised direction - perhaps the centralised "vestige" is where the vision or strategy comes from?

In this scenario, the L+D function is then able to concentrate on creating the infrastructure to support and enable learning, working much more closely with operational staff to address the learning and development needs of the organisation?



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