Let the dialogue continue:
In the July issue of Chief Learning Officer magazine, I was able to take you inside an invitation-only meeting. I shared highlights of a summit where I was invited, along with about 30 leading learning executives, to the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education and Wharton Executive Education to lay groundwork for a chief learning officer career path. It was an interesting intellectual exercise.
In a way, what began to emerge in that room was the ultimate job description for the ideal CLO. This high-powered brain trust put its collective consciousness together and started a process that I hope will continue indefinitely. As Don Quixote learned, the search for perfection can be all-encompassing and time-consuming.
Given the fluid nature of business, it’s likely you’ve been involved, at some point in your career, in rolling out a new corporate position—perhaps even defining the position you now hold. If so, you know it all starts with the job description, which does more than delineate duties: It builds the platform from which countless missions are launched.
So, if you’re building the learning leader for the next generation, where do you begin? As a still-emerging role, the chief learning officer’s job description is far from standard, dependent on everything from corporate culture to individual capabilities. But we’re getting closer to industry cohesion, and the basic tenets of the CLO’s role are crystallizing.
Just ask Robert Zotti, program director for online learning with the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. Zotti read my July column and was one of many who responded to my call for input on the components for the next-generation learning leader. (See Letters to the Editor on page 14 for more CLO feedback.) All the ideas were good ones, and all are represented here, but Zotti really struck a chord—quite likely because he was preaching to my choir.
CLOs should concern themselves with increasing knowledge on two fronts: operational/tactical and strategic. That’s pretty much a given for the position, a mission-critical perspective from which the CLO’s role must begin.
But it goes deeper, as we all know. The CLO sets the tone for training, defines the strategies for when and how learning is delivered, and chooses the most appropriate partners, venues and modalities for specific lessons. All that, and the iceberg’s tip still is barely visible.
The input continues: The CLO needs a seat at the table in determining education’s role in corporate strategy, and should have a base-level familiarity with all company operations. The CLO also should understand the people behind the productivity, and keep their needs in mind, balanced against the company needs. Common ground is more than a park in Boston—it’s the launching pad for engagement and success everywhere.
Finally (for now, at least), the CLO needs to be familiar with the educational resources of the community, from the colleges to the associations, from user groups to professional societies. Having this big-picture perspective makes you well-tuned to the possibilities and partnerships of your position. Interestingly enough, this is both a little more challenging and workable considering that today’s learning communities are borderless, global entities. With partners and networks spread across the planet, the personal touch can sometimes be more elusive. But then again, if you need a solution anywhere from Manhattan to Malaysia, nothing these days is too far away.
No one who knows ever said it’s easy—we haven’t even discussed the CLO’s role in day-to-day functionality. But as you can see, the bottom of the page is fast approaching, so we’ll have to sing that song another day.
It’s not too late to add your voice to this chorus, and to help us build the perfect learning leader. As always, I’m available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor in Chief