This past week, my colleague Jane Hart has been asking the question: “What would happen if there were no Training/L&D department?” (And I recommend you send her your answer. ;) I suspect, of course, that she’s looking at lateral ways to think different about L&D, but it’s an intriguing prospect. As an interesting contrast, Noel Hurst quotes me from the Learning Solution conference as saying “L&D has the opportunity to be the most valuable part of your business.” Are these ideas incommensurate? Or is there a reconciliation?
So, Jane states that the responses from her question fall into two categories: (1) orgs can’t do without L&D (2) orgs w/o L&D do things differently. And she admits that she’s interested in the latter. What would orgs do differently if they didn’t have the existing baggage of L&D? This interests me from a perspective of what would orgs eventually figure they might want to invest in across the enterprise to facilitate improving their ability to execute and innovate. What I suggested as a response to her question was that individuals and communities would take over responsibility for learning, and work to create environments to support a richer variety of learning. Eventually, orgs would look to do that more efficiently across the communities. And that’s my starting point.
This is what I meant when I made the claim that Noel noted. My perspective is that the role of L&D could (and should) be about improving performance and facilitating development. If, instead of just providing courses, P&D were focused on making sure people could do their jobs, using performance consulting and developing the appropriate solutions – whether job aids, contextual support, coaching, or what have you – they’d be contributing to optimal execution. If they went further, and were also facilitating the ability for the organization to continually innovate – fostering communication and collaboration via tools, practices, and culture – they’d be key to getting people to provide their best. And this is increasingly important.
The old adage that people are an organization’s most important access is increasingly becoming true. The ability to execute optimally is being increasingly outsourced, as my colleague Harold Jarche aptly points out, and the only real value in the organization is going to come from the knowledge work, the important decisions, that will come from people. Together. The main element of success for organizations, going forward, will come from developing their people and having them co-create and deliver the ongoing nature of the business. And P&D should be the ones who understand how people think, work, and learn, and support that. That’s the opportunity on the table. Successful organizations will find ways to make this happen, with or without L&D. I just think that it’s an opportunity L&D should grab. So, are you making the move?