L&D Aligning with TM

Whether you are a Talent Management practitioner, or a Learning & Development practitioner, you would have the question about how these two should align. The question is one of how one can enable the other. To answer this, one must explore the source of L&D initiatives, with which L&D initiatives must be aligned. This source is higher people performance. If we take this as the premise, then it stands to reason that L&D must be strongly aligned with TM strategy.

People performance is defined based on the performance management framework the organization would have in place. Broadly, the levels of this framework (in a theoretical scenarion, and many organizations differ widely from this) could be seen here, and one can also see the levels and ways in which L&D can align with, and enable this TM strategy.

As you can see, the inputs from L&D initiatives at different levels need to be aligned to the requirements of that level, and the learning objectives which need to be met at that level.

At the level of KCAs, where the need is to build behaviourial capability, the training requirement primarily is for soft-skills, the details of which are based typically on a combination of role and the level in the hierarchy of the employee (commonly called band).

At the employee-goals level, the requirements are either in terms of organization needs from the employee, or in terms of employee aspirations, and these are primarily met in the form of technical training, or in form of training designed to meet the needs of succession or progression. From the perspective of succession or progression, organizations usually have programs aimed at equipping people for meeting specific roles, wither at the same level or at a higher level, and these would typically form part of the training needs at this level of the framework.

At the project/operational level, the training needs are primarily project-focused, to build capability inventory aligned with the requirements of the project or operations, and this forms a large part of the training requirements, mostly technical or functional.

Training’s Khan Academy

Theres lot said about the way the principles of Khan Academy can be applied in the world of education. However, i see education and training as two essentially linked areas, and so, if there are lessons for education from Khan Academy, there must also be lessons for corporate training teams.

This made me think about what could be the key take-aways for a training manager from the way content is structured in Khan Academy. And an immediate answer that comes to mind is brevity.

Today, organizations are under pressure to increase productivity so that organizations are able to deliver more with the same number of employees. This means that employees need to deliver more in the same period of time. In consulting organizations, this is a euphemism for utilization pressure. Many of us would have heard those, havent we? And while L&D managers are under pressure to deliver training to enhance employee capabilities, there is also the constraint of getting participants away from their work for a few days to attend classroom sessions. There is of course e-learning, but can e-learning be an en bloc alternative for classroom or virtual education? I dont think so.

And this is where the Khan Academy concept comes in. This is something i had championed to some extent over a period of the last few years. I am talking about training modules which are a twitterized form of training. In other words, module videos which are to youtube what twitter is to blogs.

In this scenario, the fundamental idea is that people are more interested in training to enable them to do their jobs more effectively. This means that they would be more interested in short, crisp programs (not more than 5 minutes) which help them learn how to do specific tasks as part of their job. Just the things which are required for them to become more effective in their work.

Think job aids meet youtube meets twitter.

Leaders …

The question of leadership, and who leaders are, or ought to be, has been around for a while. I remember the discusion going on about whether are born or whether they can be made for two decades, and i suppose we werent the first people in the world to discuss this. This is a question i keep getting asked When i am running a leadership development training program. Of course, this is a question to which everyone has an answer, and everyone would be confident theirnanswer is the right one.

Well, i too have an answer, though i am not sure if this is the right one. I feel leaders are born, but having said that, there are some principles of leadership which can be generalized (this in the face of believing that every leader has their own distinctive style, not all of which can be generalized, because its relevant to the context) and so, can be taught to some extent.

Having said that, men look up to leaders. Which means that if we can identify the people who people look up to, then we have identified natural leaders who have emerged. This is something this piece from managementexchange talks about.

What you will find really cool about the piece is that it describes that natural leaders emerge based on the level to which they are ready to share expertise or knowledge they have, and the level to whch they are able or willing to collaborate with each other. This, i feel, is the learning paradigm of knowledge-work in a flat world, as they say, that “knowledge shared is knowledge squared”, now it also seems that this paradigm of squaring knowledge may also be at the core of emergent leadership.

Leadership Development

Recently came across an article about the top 25 companies for leaders. You can find the article here. Going through the article, couldnt help seeing that there seem to be some practices most of the organizations in the list seem to have, with respect to developing leaders. Thought it might be useful to list out the thoughts i have about these:

  1. Organizations with exceptional leadership must have a robust process to identify the leadership pipeline. There must be processes in place which can identify potential leaders across the organization, and across levels of the organization. This process must be person-independant, and must operate in a way where it can identify even junior employees who have the spark, the potential to lead, early on in their careers.
  2. There must be well-defined career paths for people who are identified as potential leaders. The important aspect here is that these people must be retained, while at the same time, ensuring they are on track to achieving their leadership potential. Lot of organizations refer to these as fast-track, or star-performers, but this career path approach must go beyond just that, to giving responsibility to these people to manage important projects or teams. This is not just about honing skills, but about giving them the opportunity to continuously prove their potential, both to the organization as well as to themselves.
  3. There must be a well-defined development process for these identified leaders. This development process needs go beyond training, and must include a range of other tools, including simulations, coaching, mentoring, special assignments, even including potential leaders as observers in senior management reviews, for example. This is a way of enabling them to not just understand theoretical concepts, but to develop themselves through hands-on experience, and through the guidance of leaders. Important here it is to include the senior leadership of the organizations in this process, especially when it comes to mentoring and coaching. This is where the senior leaders need to invest effort in developing the next line of leaders for the organization.
  4. Instead of looking at leadership development as a point intervention, it must be seen as a process which is going to take time, with defined milestones, and ways of evaluating performance while at the same time including feedback mechanisms which could further help enable the coaching and mentoring process.
  5. Grooming leaders must a mandatory part of the work of the senior leadership of the organization.

Assuming that different people would have aptitude for different functions, it would also be important to identify the areas of the organizations which different leaders are groomed for. Not every potential leader would be the CEO, thats something we need to accept, but having done that, we also need to define clearly who can play a leadership role in which domain of the organization.

Hierarchies, E 2.0

This is a topic which has been discussed for a while, and one which we still dont know much about. The dynamics of how hierarchy and community would interplay with each other are being figured out. And maybe thats why this question keeps coming up from time to time. There is an interesting post written by Andrew McAfee where he writes about the thought that the millennials wont change work, rather, they would get changed by the organization structure as they get settled into the working environment. While at first glance Luis Suarez in this post seems to disagree with Andrew (he says so too), i think he is trying to refine what Andrew says.

The question here seems to be, put more generically, what would be the kind of impact millennials, with their worldview, would have on organizations. Whether they would have their worldviews changed by organization structures, or whether they would influence organization structures to an extent where community, collaborative working, distributed decision-making, and distributed leadership would get a different meaning from what they have now.

I feel the two are neither very probable. What i feel would be the evolutionary path would be some kind of middle route, where hierarchies would impact the millennial’s way of working, their worldview, and millennials would impact the way organizations are structured, and to an extent, the way organizations work. I have written about this earlier and i feel that change in this scenario would be gradual, and the impact would be seen only after maybe 20-30 years. This is the time it would take (just a guess, please write a comment if you dont agree with the guess) for the interactions of the two different ways of doing things to play out and enable the new form to emerge.

I agree with Andrew that:

If all these articles were accurate, we would have witnessed almost nonstop convulsions in the workplace over the past sixty years, and knowledge work environments that look nothing like they did a few generations ago. But instead we still have org charts that mean something, jobs with narrowly defined responsibilities, promotions, bosses and subordinates, and most of the other longstanding trappings of organizational life.

Having said that, i also agree with Luis that:

To me, work happens around you; the workplace is no longer a physical location where you would go to do your working hours, report to your boss and project team and then back home. To me, work happens around you AND those knowledge workers, across the organisation, you connect and collaborate with in various social networks and communities. Not just traditional organisational structures, like in the past; business work has become a whole lot more complex than that lately, don’t you think?

Having said that, i feel that the change would be somewhere between the two. Where between the two it would be, would depend on the environment in which the change is happening. This environment would include the culture of the organization, the nature of work the organization does, and the demographics of the organization (these are just the variables which come to mind first off, there would be more, so if you can come up with some, please leave a comment).

Defining … Some Thoughts

This seems to be the season for fundamental re-thinks. It began with Dave Snowden’s post about alternative to CKO, which delved into the relationship between business units and KM. I had published a poll about the same topic (which is open till 10th October), and blogged about Dave’s thoughts. And something i have been thinking about for a few days (the reason i havent been able to blog about this earlier is simply laziness) … how could one define KM. And came across this post by Dave Snowden, defining KM, which i think is a very good description of what KM should be doing in an organization.
I think the definition Dave gives describes KM quite well:

The purpose of Knowledge Management is to provide support for improved decision-making and innovation throughout the organization. This is achieved through the effective management of human intuition and experience augmented by the provision of information, processes and technology together with training and mentoring program.

Improved decision-making … this is something which was promised by information systems more than a decade back. Though decisions did improve, there is still the possibility of decision-making being more improved. How, one may ask. Till now, the paradigm of decision-making hasnt considered that decision-making is not a perfectly rational process. In other words, decisions arent always made on perfectly rational assumptions, or on information available, and that, even if theoretically, all possible information were available (which it cant), there would still be that factor x which is not totally definable, and which cannot be externalized, which influences decision-making. Could we call this tacit knowledge? Probably. Could we call this experience? Maybe. No matter what we call this, this remains the major aspect of Knowledge Management.

Add to this the aspect that it is not usually possible for everyone to have access to all possible information required to make a decision. Not only is this because of systemic constraints, but also because there is usually no single definition about what information is relevant, or required, for making a decision. In some scenarios there is, but not in all. Given this, one aspect of KM is also to get people connected with sources of knowledge, whether repositories, or people, and to get them access to knowledge, whether directly or indirectly, which may be relevant for decision-making. This is the essential value-proposition for tools like social networking.

Another aspect which Dave mentioned is about the positioning of KM in the organization. The essence is that at a centralized level, KM needs to be synchronized with the strategic imperatives of the organization, while implementation should be done at localized level. Implementation of KM initiatives should be within the context of the localized business requirements. This has a number of benefits. One, this ensures that while overall KM is aligned with strategic requirements, at the point of implementation, KM is aligned with specifics of business requirements. Two, this also creates a level of ownership for  KM initiatives among business units. Three, it is easier to measure the impact of KM initiatives in highly localized context, where it is easy to define the way KM can impact the business, rather than at a generic level.

More Enterprise 2.0 …

There have been quite a few blogs written around what Enterprise 2.0 is over the last few days. One of the blogs which brings together thoughts from a number of blogs has been posted by Paula Thornton. There is quite a wide view of Enterprise 2.0 which you get from here. Though, more people think that theres something to look at with Enterprise 2.0, there are people who also believe that this is nothing much more than the flavour of the week/month/year … or thoughts on similar lines.

What comes from here is that Enterprise 2.0 seems to be connected to the technology, to larger or lesser extents by different people. Which probably misses the point. One important thing about Enterprise 2.0, the way i see it, is that this is about the form of the organization in a scenario which has more participation and collaboration from across the organization than we see today. What is important to see is the implication this could have for the organization (at least in theory, because probably this would not be something which would come around, or not anytime soon, but more about that later). The implication is the inclusivity of decision-making within the organization. Again, there have been discussions about how this will impact hierarchies in organizations, and while some believe that hierarchies will disappear, i dont think so, as i have written before. This is the aspect of Enterprise 2.0 (or, the interaction between communities and hierarchy that would probably occur in organizations, and the resultant form the organizational structure would take) that doesnt come out of the discussion.

One of the interesting reactions which Paula mentions is from this post:

Enterprise 2.0’s true potential is to facilitate a paradigm shift that fundamentally changes operating models and leverages the existing reality of work.

Probably the change wont be as huge as had been anticipated earlier, what we can be reasonable certain of is that change is there, and this would be seen going forward, too, though the exact shape is something which we cant be sure of now, not just because this would depend on the interactions between communities and hierarchies, but also because the extent of change would also vary from organization to organziation.

Another interesting idea that comes out is that of emergence, which comes from this post. The idea being that as people discuss things as part of a community, through this conversation, things emerge. Whether these are new products, new markets, strategies, etc., these arise from the minds of people, and emerge through conversations. And this process is enabled by Web 2.0 tools (though these tools are not the organization, which is where the difference between Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 comes).

From here, it can be seen that Enterprise 2.0 is about the form and functioning of organizations. To what measure this will come through is something we will need to see, as we have already discussed. Any thoughts, please do post comments.