Learning Managers of Today – Victims of the Buzz or True Champions of OD?

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Human beings, being social creatures, get easily attracted to often intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something. The buzzword in corporate now is OD. In a refreshing though gradual departure from the ‘Training is Time Pass’ to ‘Learning is Business’ mindset, executives are missing the forest for the trees. But where does that leave the Learning Manager? Indications are that there is a lot happening around the execution of training initiatives – unlike sometime back when classrooms were seen as safe houses for poor performers and Trainers as their guards, playing the second-fiddle in the organization, if not anything else.

Technology’s arrogance that it alone can deliver the demands of Cost, Quality, Service & Speed in business have proved to be a tall claim that business managers could not finally settle. Business pressures led to realizations in chorus that Process cannot be seen in isolation of People. And so came the holy consciousness that Companies doing business has to be seen and treated as Organizations run by People.

Organization Development (OD) is undoubtedly a welcome idea to the Leaders and Managers, particularly of those entities who are keen to strengthen their resolve – never to become a Texaco, Enron or even for that matter the Indian watch maker, HMT. Yet, what is happening in the name of OD? Where is the Strategy? If learning is an integral part of business – for the people, by the people and of the people, can it continue to stay alive and breathe life into the mainstream organization without a systemic approach and a Learning Management Vision & Strategy? Unfortunately that’s what is happening. Adhocism in the area of OD is giving feeble or no results. Organizations are often seen to be investing a lot of money in the so-called Training & Development activities, in peace-meals, focusing acutely on the accomplishment of targeted learning man-days! That’s exactly the scenario when they are counting trees but have no idea of how the forest looks like. The hyper-focused approach on the training deliveries have taken the eye off the larger goals of the organization, which OD was supposed to help accomplish as an enabler. Learning professionals are falling prey to this. When happiness of accomplishments exists around adhocisms in learning – a Learning Manager must wake up to the clarion call.

Learning managers must ensure that training and development activities in the organization are the subset of the overall OD strategy. They do disservice to the organization, should they miss to integrate the training calendar to the larger OD Strategy and the disservice is not only to the organization but to themselves too, in their professional practice. It may be pertinent to note that the OD strategy is the mother of all the training and development related activities and that the calendar cannot be emerging from nowhere. The mandate here is to draw together the strategic objectives, priorities by way of a meticulous diagnosis of the business challenges in the organization and how OD can aid the fulfillment of those, as its own goals. T&D is one of the means to fulfill the OD strategy and not an integrative strategy in itself. Significantly important is to note that all training and development in the organization, as a subset of OD, must cater to address the challenges ever emerging due to the constant changes that the organization is going through. Needless to mention that change being the only constant – is a common ecosystem for every kind of business and thus dedicated strategic focus on OD becomes less of a choice for any organization and its learning manager, irrespective of its size and business that it is in.

This refers to a broad key responsibility area of the Learning Manager. To follow the diagnosis and deliberately plan and embark upon enterprise wide endeavors, with training activities only as one of the initiatives, to increase the organization’s effectiveness, efficiency and overall readiness to battle the weathers of change. The Learning Manager must have a long range, long term holistic and multi faceted approach to help the organization achieve transformational change through its people. Being sensitive to the above responsibilities helps the Learning Manager fall prey to the deceptive trap of adhocism.

The Learning Manager’s plate is still not full… The lack of a robust measurement system could be his potential derailment factor. Having measuring systems, processes, benchmarks and controlling through a PERT gives handles to measure OD efforts and helps cover some distance on measuring otherwise debatable aspect of ‘effectiveness’. An organized, scientific and empirical approach taken by Learning Managers for all OD efforts helps him or her to co-relate the OD interventions to business results, highlight areas for future investments, and also to justify budget allocations. If learning is business, the Learning Managers better be more accountable for how the booty is spent within their organizations.

Lets all not lose the forest for the trees…the traps are many.

© Copyright Satyakki Bhattacharjee 2014

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