Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

28 June 2010

Getting strategic

Clark @ 10:26 AM

Was on a call with my Internet Time Alliance colleagues, and we were talking about how to help organizations make the transition from delivering courses to supporting the full performance ecosystem.  Jane Hart has had a recent series on what she calls ‘performance consulting‘, and its a good way to look at things from a broader perspective.  She was about to give a presentation, and we were talking through her slides.

Charles Jennings pointed out that they layer above her slides to the Learning and Development group was a missing ‘governance’ role, which he’s been thinking about quite a bit.  The point being that someone needs to be assisting in the strategic role of ensuring the coverage is addressing the broad needs of the organization, not just courses.

Harold Jarche pointed out that just mimicking the Human Performance Technology (HPT) approach (e.g. ISPI) would miss the same things it misses.  I’ve been a fan of HPT since it goes beyond ADDIE in considering other potential sources of problems than just skills (e.g. performance support, incentives), but Harold’s right that it doesn’t inherently cover social learning, let alone engagement.

Jay Cross reminded us we can’t just ignore the fact that their perspective is strongly focused on compliance and other such needs.  They have LMSs, and if we try to say that’s irrelevant we’ll be ignored as being out of touch.  The fact is that there is a role for formal learning, it’s just not everything.

5 types of org learningMy takeaway was that we need a combined approach to help folks understand the bigger picture.  From Rand Spiro’s Cognitive Flexibility Theory, we need to provide multiple models to increase the likelihood that the audience will find one that resonates. Whether it’s the continuum from novice through practitioner to expert, Jane & Harold’s 5 types of org learning (e.g. FSL, IOL, GDL, PDL, & ASL), or Jay’s point about continual change meaning formal methods aren’t sufficient, there are multiple ways it helps to think about the full spectrum of learning design.  It’s also important to point out how supporting these is critical to the organization, and that it’s a way to take a strategic role and increase relevance to the organization.

Similarly, there are some sticks available, such as increasingly irrelevancy if the L&D department does not take on this role.  If they allow IT or operations to take it over, a) it won’t be run as well as if learning folks are involved, and b) they’ll be the ones seen providing the necessary performance infrastructure and adding value to the enterprise.

Finally, what’s also needed is a suite of tools and processes to move forward. It’s clear to us that there are systematic ways to augment existing approaches to move in this new direction, but it may not be obvious to those who would want to change what they should start doing differently.  We talked about ‘layers’ of extension of operation, starting with adding engagement to the design of learning experiences, and incorporating performance support and eCommunity to the potential solution quiver.  Next steps include considering Knowledge Management and Organizational Development.  Governance also needs to work it’s way into the mix.  My barrows include mobile and deeper content models in addition to the others.

Quite simply, it has to start with the first step: analysis of the problems.  For example, if the answer is changing quickly, if the audience are experts, or it’s easier to connect to the right person than to develop content, facilitating communication may be a better solution than developing content.  It helps to have the tools available in the infrastructure, a platform approach, which is why we advocate thinking about having a portal system and social networking in place in the organization, so you don’t have to build a whole infrastructure when  you see the need.  The learning processes will have to be richer than existing ones, and that will require new tools, I reckon.  However, it will also require a new attitude and initiative.

The L&D group may not be the right group for the message, it may have to go higher (as Charles and Jay continue to suggest), but we’re looking to figure out how to help folks wherever they may be.  The final solution, however, has to be that some group that understands learning is facilitating the learning function in the organization at a systemic level. That’s the goal. How your organization gets there will depend on where you’re at, and many other factors, but that’s what any organization that wants to succeed in this time of increasing change will have to achieve.  Get it on your radar now, and figure out how you’re going to get there!


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