Part 3 – Aligning Learning to business, Balls in the Air!

by | Aug 4, 2008 | Articles

In part 2 –  Before, During and After, we explored the need to increase your business analysis efforts before and after the learning intervention.  In this article, we explore some of the key things you need to manage or influence to ensure successful delivery of your learning or learning technology strategy.  You will get much greater value if you read part 1 and part 2 first.

Balls in the air!

From A to Z
Delivering your strategy is often a journey and one that can take several years.  Rarely will you be able to jump from your point of departure (PoD) to your point of arrival (PoA) in one step.  The journey involves managing many critical elements or processes, ensuring they compliment and support the execution of your strategy.

So what might be critical?
This varies from organisation to organisation and very much depend on where you start (PoD) and where you want to go (PoA).  Commonly recurring issues include the IT Strategy and how this supports, or not, the learning strategy.  If you have any element of online learning, the IT strategy will be a key enabler or inhibitor to you.  What’s more you, as the L&D Manager, do not even own or manage the IT infrastructure.  You therefore need to inform and influence the IT Director and ensure they embrace your aspirations and also ensure the IT infrastructure is developed to support the delivery of your strategy.  This could cover numerous requirements from bandwidth, desktop functionality, software such as browsers and plug-in, firewall settings, VPN remote access requirements and so on.  You might have the best eContent but if it cannot be delivered to the end user in a seamless and engaging manner, then you will not be perceived as being successful.

Identify the elements, define where you are today and where you need to be:
Other examples of directly managed issues are:  The skills and capabilities of the L&D team, your eContent strategy, Learning Technology strategy, Learning Governance.  Other indirect ones might include the IT helpdesk, culture, legal and company policies.

Let’s say for example that you strategy calls for the development of a blended learning solution which includes eLearning and performance support tools (e.g. information or knowledge management support, tied into a process or other system such as a call centre management system).  Does the L&D team have the appropriate skills to procure and/or author content, can they successfully mange the delivery of this content?  Do they understand the technology?  Set out what skills and capabilities will be necessary at your point of arrival – that is the ideal end state you seek to achieve.  What is the gap?  How are you going to fill it and how long will this take and what will it cost?  You will soon see that you cannot jump overnight from where you are to where you want to be.

eContent strategy:  If you need to be able to delivery content on demand within a performance support system then the content itself needs to be authored and created in an appropriate way, often in small bite size pieces rather than longer course structures.  Have you got the LMS technology that can deliver these “nuggets” of learning?  Can the LMS also serve them up as “courses” or curricula?  Can the user search for them easily, perhaps from the Intranet Homepage or within another application?  Can other systems link into the LMS and extract the learning and track and report activity?  Essential elements here include the LMS functionality, single sign-on, deep linking into the LMS and so on.    Again, assess where you are today and where you need to get to:  Set out the eContent and Learning Technology roadmap to undertake this journey.

Legal and other Policies:  What internal policies exist which might support or inhibit your strategy?  Blogging and Wikis are often looked upon with a great deal of nervousness, especially in regulated industries.  If your strategy includes collaborative learning, do your company policies support this?  Can they be influenced and changed?  Some policies may directly impact on your desire to offer remote access to the learning system and resources.  It may not just be a technical issue that restrains you.

Company Culture:  This again could be an area you need to influence and change in order that your strategy can be delivered appropriately.  Do line managers’ support there staff learning at their desks, or do they constantly interrupt them because they are there and not in a classroom?  Is independent learning and informal learning supported, valued and recognised?  Once again, define the ideal end point and evaluate where you are today.  Define the steps necessary that will be needed to move forward.

Manage all of these issues either directly or indirectly:
When working with companies in my consulting business, having developed the strategy, we identify all the relevant issues that need managing or influencing to ensure the successful delivery of the strategy.  Then we define our PoD and PoA and create defined and achievable steps for each one and assign a cost or value to this.  This helps to build the business case and clarifies the investment needed.  Having done this, we can plot where we are on a spider diagram and re-evaluate and report progress often on a 6 or 12 month cycle.  This is a great tool for reporting or the progress on sub-sections of the business, countries, departments etc. as well as an overall view of progress.
SpiderChart

The spider chart shows only the main heading that you have determined to be relevant.  Behind each one, could be several contributing factors, all of which need to be evaluated, managed and scored.  Your defined PoA (point of arrival) is scored at a 5.

Good luck with your journey!

This article is produced with Permission by Gordon Bull

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