Let me suggest that one of the biggest gaps in our thinking is about doing. Too often, we think about ‘learning’ as the end goal, and it’s not. (I’ve gone as far as suggesting we rename L&D!) We need to rethink and ask about doing, not learning; we need to ask about people: what to do?
To start with, for organizational needs we don’t learn for intellectual self-gratification. (Though, too often, it seems that way: ‘awareness’ courses continue to perplex me. What possible organizational value will they achieve?) Instead, there should be identified gaps that are targeted because remedying them will improve outcomes.
There’s a whole process of analysis that starts with looking at gaps between ideal and real performance. Where are we lacking? Then, for any particular gap, we look for the root cause: is it a lack of skill, lack of knowledge, lack of resources, lack of motivation, … ? This up front work keeps us from using training to address a misalignment between incentives and desired behavior, for instance. Training isn’t going to keep people from doing things that are in their best interest! (And rightly so.)
Then, when we identify the root cause, we can target the appropriate intervention. Not all interventions may be within L&D’s purview, of course. We design courses. We could also be the ones who design performance support and facilitate informal learning (who better?). Of course, we shouldn’t be responsible for hiring or resourcing or compensation; at least not without a job description and skilling rethink. Our organizations deserve to invest in things that will move important needles.
This all is a shift to a focus on performance, on doing, not learning. While there are a variety of terms, this, to me, falls under the label ‘performance consulting’. It starts by asking “what should people be doing?” With the caveat that they aren’t doing now, or are doing wrongly. Then we ask “why?” Finally, we’re ready to design a solution. We’re focusing on outcomes. If it’s skills, it has to be in the head; and learning’s involved. If it’s knowledge, if it has to be in the head, learning can be involved, otherwise we should put it in the world. And so on.
My intent here is to suggest focusing on performance, not learning or knowing. That makes a better focus for investment, and is easier to recognize when it’s been remedied. So, what to do? Focus on performance first. Determine if a learning solution is your best choice, before you invest in it. Otherwise, you could be throwing money away. If you’ve got money to throw away, I can help ;), but I’d rather help you use it wisely.
The Learning Development Accelerator is running a mini-conference on performance consulting. It’s four half-days of immersion in the topics, with some of the top folks in the field. All with the usual focus on evidence-based practices. If you want to start doing L&D right, it’s a good start!