I’ve used this quip quite a bit, as it’s essentially the rationale for the Revolution book. And I want to make clear what I’m saying, and then qualify it. It’s about the state of Learning & Development, and sums up one perspective fairly succinctly:
L&D isn’t doing near what it could and should be, and what it is doing it’s doing badly. Other than that, it’s fine.
It’s meant to be a little flip and ‘in your face’, but it’s because I think there’s such potential for L&D! This is my way of characterizing the situation that might spark some reflection, and even action.
L&D is, largely, about courses. And unfortunately, too often they’re about content-dump, and an experience that will rank highly on a smile sheet. Which is historically understandable, but scientifically bereft. Compliance aside (and here’s to a competency shift, away from ‘1 hour / year’ or whatever other time-based basis we might find), our courses should be focused on applying knowledge to meaningful tasks, and meaningful feedback. Sufficient, varied, spaced, and deliberate practice! Of course this isn’t everyone’s L&D, but it certainly appears to be all too present.
The second thing is that L&D could be so much broader! If we’re really worry about organizational performance and continuing improvement (why I suggest L&D should shift to P&D, performance and development), we should do more. Performance support, for instance, should be under the purview of L&D. Otherwise it gets left to chance or those who don’t have the necessary background.
And, then there’s coaching. Recognize that learning takes time, and that we need to continue development beyond the classroom. Thus, coaching’s critical to continued improvement. Again, L&D has a role to play here: developing coaching skills, providing guidance, and tracking.
Then we go beyond formal learning: optimizing the ongoing learning in individuals, teams, and communities. This is organizational learning! There’re processes for individual improvement like PKM, team processes like brainstorming, and community interactions. Leaving these to chance is a mistake, as we can’t assume these skills.
And the outcomes of helping the organization get better beyond the course are big. Not just individual learning, but the organization is learning faster. And that’s a necessity for success, going forward. In short, there’s a lot L&D could be doing that would help the organization that it’s missing now.
Now, complaining as my statement does isn’t necessarily useful, unless it’s constructive, and the point is that we have very comprehensive and specific things we know about doing better. By this quip I don’t mean to criticize; I want to inspire action and improvement. So here’s to revolutionizing L&D. I hope you’ll join us!
Guy Wallace says
I agree with everything here other than the comment about “Performance support, for instance, should be under the purview of L&D” – if that means own it all/create it all – as that continues the dependency of all other functions on L&D.
I think it’d be better to help all other functions learn to become more self-reliant and take care of Training Needs Assessments themselves for example, and learn how to create Performance Support (and when & how to test it before general release – when risky).
Just as Learning isn’t created exclusively by L&D’s product – although Training should lead to learning how to perform when warranted – neither should they own all of the mechanisms that can be used: coaching – structured interviews of customers, peers, suppliers – Job Aids – etc.
Empowering your Customers for a DIY (unless it’s really tricky and then call us ) approach is more sustainable than attempting to own it all/ do it all.
I’ve got a Blog Post schedule on this coming out soon (but I forget when).
Heather Snyder says
Yes! I like that the quip is a bit shocking, I think it grabs attention. I wonder if it could be used to department heads in organizations when trying to explain a shift like this in a training program.
Thanks for the feedback, Heather & Guy. Heather, I think it can be used to explain/justify a shift in approach. And Guy, I agree, and was probably too flip. I think the responsibility for developing performance support ‘capability’ should be under L&D, but not all the creation. As things change faster, I do think L&D has to move to more a facilitator role than a provider role. You may prompt a blog post on this topic from me!