On the heels of my last blog where I told you all how optimistic I was, I bring you all back down to earth. The truth is, lots of L&D functions are in crisis mode. They find themselves in the unenviable position of either transforming or accepting extinction. Both options may seem equally scary, but really, only one is fatal. Transformation can be terrifying, difficult, and lengthy, but big dividends are often available for those who are brave enough to do it.
In the past six months, we have talked to thought leaders, our Deloitte counterparts, and to many, many learning leaders about the future of L&D and where we go from here. As a result of all of these discussions, we have come up with a high-level process for transformation. (The working title for the report is “How to Transform L&D in 9 Easy Steps.” We’ll see if that makes it past the publication team).
The typical transformation process falls within three main phases: rationalize, restructure, and reinvent. I’ve summarized them below.
For the purposes of this discussion, we use the term “rationalize” to mean streamline, downsize, and simplify what the L&D department does. This is both a necessary and unsettling first step. It is necessary because until L&D has a complete picture of what is going on in the organization, it is very difficult to change anything in a logical way. It is unsettling because it involves L&D taking a cold, hard, look at its purpose and how well it is aligning its resources to that purpose.
Simply, this phase is when L&D objectively considers all aspects of their organization (assets, processes, technology, methods – all of it) and determines those that are no longer serving the business. Rationalizing enables L&D departments to free up wasted time, effort, and mindshare and to identify resources that can be allocated in other, more effective ways.
Weeding out the unnecessary, the waste, and the noise can go a long way to making a learning function more efficient, but it is not enough. Usually, a restructure is also necessary. L&D departments that don’t, can find themselves in one of two situations. They may find themselves right back where they started because the space created by the “rationalize” phase has again filled in with minutiae. Or they find themselves to be incredibly efficient with fewer resources (because they have proven to those making budget decisions that they don’t need them).
The goal of transformation should not be to significantly add or detract resources from the department. It’s actually to think differently about how resources are used. The restructuring phase helps to maintain the space and efficiency created during the rationalize phase by reordering and reapplying freed-up resources in ways that better benefit the larger organization.
And now, what I consider to be the fun part. The previous phases in the transformation process focus mainly on getting things in order: scrutinizing budgets, content, skills, realigning processes, people, and technology. Doing these things helps L&D become more efficient, effective, and aligned with the larger organization.
Reinventing L&D means going beyond having solid systems and processes, understanding the learning architecture, and focusing on continuous learning. It demands L&D to step out of its comfort zone and experiment and innovate. Experimentation and innovation should become second nature to L&D professionals. They should be built into both mindset and development processes, and should also be considered in making resource allocation decisions.
So there you have it: a very high level overview of the three phases of a typical L&D transformation process. Want to know more? You’re in luck! On February 11 we’re walking through these three phases and their accompanying steps in a Bersin by Deloitte webinar. You can register here.