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L&D Tuneup

In my youth, owing to my father’s tutelage and my desire for wheels, I learned how to work on cars. While not the master he was, I could rebuild a carburetor, gap points and sparkplugs, as well as adjust the timing. In short, I could do a tuneup on the car.  And I think that’s what Learning & Development (L&D) needs, a tuneup.

Cars have changed, and my mechanic skills are no longer relevant. What used to be done mechanically – adjusting to altitude, adapting through the stages of the engine warming up, and handling acceleration requests – are now done electronically. The air-fuel mixture and the spark advance are under the control of the fuel injection and electronic ignition systems (respectively) now.  With numerous sensors, we can optimize fuel efficiency and performance.

And that’s the thing: L&D is too often still operating in the old, mechanical, model. We have the view of a hierarchical model where a few plan and prepare and train folks to execute. We stick with face-to-face training or maybe elearning, putting everything in the head, when science shows that we often function better from information in the world or even in other people’s heads!  And this old approach no longer works.

As has been noted broadly and frequently, the world is changing faster and the pressure is on organizations to adapt more quickly. With widely disparate paths  pointing in the same direction, it’s easy to see that there’s something fundamental going on. In short, we need to move, as Jon Husband puts it, from hierarchy to wirearchy.  We need agility: experimentation, review, and reflection, iteratively and collectively. And in that move, there’s a central role for L&D.

The move may not be imminent, but it is unavoidable. Even staid and secure organizations are facing the consequences of increasing rates of change and new technology innovations. AI, networks, 3D printing, there are ramifications. Even traditional government agencies are facing change. Yet, this is all about people and learning.

As Harold Jarche tells us, work is learning and learning is the work. That means learning is moving from the classroom to the workplace and on the go. L&D needs a modern workplace learning approach, as Jane Hart lets us know. This new model is one where L&D moves from fount of knowledge to learning facilitator (or advisor, as she terms it).  People need to develop those communication and collaboration, but it won’t come from classes, but from coaching and more.

And, to return to the metaphor, I view this as an L&D tuneup. It’s not about throwing out what you’re doing (unless that’s the fastest path ;), but instead augmenting it. Shifts don’t happen overnight, but instead it means taking on some internal changes, and then working that outwards with stakeholders, reengineering the organizational relationships. It’s a journey, not an event. But like with a tuneup, it’s about figuring out what your new model should be, and then adjusting until you achieve it. It’s over a more extended period of time, but it’s still a tuning operation. You have to work through the stages to a new revolutionary way of working. So, are you ready for a tuneup?

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