It used to be that the L&D model was to prepare people, then send them out to perform. There would be some data collection from the result, including debriefing perhaps, and then the training and personnel would be reviewed. In that sense, L&D was outside the performance loop, in a separate loop. And that made sense is a world where couldn’t do on the job scrutiny, and things were more predictable. We’re not in that world anymore.
The world we’re in is changing faster: we’re getting more data, companies can move faster, and customers expect more. And we now can have much more insight into what’s happening (and more’s on the way, courtesy of xAPI), and be much more closely coupled to performance. What does this mean we can and should do?
I think it means a different loop relationship with performance, where a second loop is integrated on top of the loop of performance. In this loop, L&D is more closely monitoring individual performance, looking for opportunities to support outcomes. L&D could be reviewing correlations between resource use and performance, finding those that are not performing as expected to remove or redesign, they can be looking at interactions to see how to facilitate, and they can be monitoring for emergent knowledge and skills that can be captured and possibly developed.
A concept from cybernetics is double loop learning, where you’re reviewing your goals as well as your methods, and it’s been a valuable contribution to thinking and action. Here we’re reviewing our approaches to a goal, which is a synergistic concept. And this is a role where L&D both gets more strategic in supporting business goals, more integrated into the operations by being more coupled to operations, and more facilitative in role by helping facilitate at the moment of need. This, I will suggest, is a possible and necessary shift to the ways in which organizations can start being more nimble, and the way that L&D can be directly responsible for that shift. Does this make sense to you? And is this something you think can be done?