I remember sitting down with a sales rep who was trying to sell a strategic learning solution to one of our customers. I argued for my department’s ability to deliver within the “unrealistic” expectations that the sales rep had established with the customer. There they go again, selling something I couldn’t produce in a time frame that was unrealistic by our instructional standards. How dare we deliver a product ahead of its time! Finally, after a long discussion, the sales rep looked at me and said, “It’s this simple. If I bring this bid back with the timelines you’ve proposed, it doesn’t matter how instructionally sound our deliverables are. In the eyes of the buyer, we’re irrelevant to his needs and expectations. We are no longer a strategic partner.”
I was faced with the classic issue of whether our tactical procedures and operations were making us strategically obsolete. I know this has been a problem for training departments for years, and I’m not condoning the production of ineffective learning solutions at the expense of being everything to everyone. I am suggesting, however, that training departments need to be sure they understand the difference between the tactical things they need to get done and remaining strategically relevant to the organization they support. Once tactics dominate the landscape, irrelevance typically is quick to follow.
I recently attended the CLO Colloquium event in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Chief Learning Officer. One of the most powerful parts for me was listening to the many CLOs in attendance, as faculty, keynote speakers and attendees, shared their experiences and best practices. Two of my many favorites were keynote speeches by Frank J. Anderson Jr., president of the Defense Acquisition University (DAU), and Ted Hoff, IBM vice president of learning. Both emphasized the importance of balancing the tactical operation of a training department with its ability to remain strategic. Here are a few gems I took away:
One external resource specifically named was the degree to which the training department has strategically partnered with the finance group. This alignment should evaluate the degree to which training is self-funding or even profitable, as well as the degree to which training manages its funds.
The degree to which your training department balances the tactical and strategic often can make or break its long-term effectiveness and viability. Many are lost and weighed down by an overly tactical focus. How your organization can juggle the perceptions and realities of these two critical metrics can be key to your success.
Bob Mosher is global chief learning and strategy evangelist for LearningGuide Solutions, and has been an influential leader in the IT training space for more than 15 years. He can be reached at email@example.com.