Organisational Learning & Development

A lot of what I spend my professional time on is almost always related to projects that require developing learning solutions, more often than not on crafting strategies that lead to learning outcomes for professionals in teams, and quite often my role within this context is disguised as Project Manager (more on this further in).

Large corporations understand how important it is to create and cultivate a learning culture, that the human being is basically programmed to constantly learn, and that learning and career advancement opportunities are increasingly more important to employees. Creating learning solutions that help and support employees to grow and develop is not a simple task and depending on the driving reasons behind the training, will need to be carefully thought out.

In this series of posts, I will give you a brief outline of the process of developing the best possible training programmes for organisations.


Which Growth Phase Is Your Organisation Currently In?

Doctor Larry Greiner is a professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business and his research identified that organisations move through six distinct phases that are a function of an organisation’s age and size. If we look at the Greiner’s Growth Model we see that we can describe organisations in terms of growth by separating the journey into these six phases. In the case of some small businesses, this model can be used to describe the entire organisation whereas when it comes to large international organisations we could also choose to apply it to a specific area, segment or division of the corporate reality.


Granular Organisational Learning Development

Granularity is a word you will probably encounter often on my blog as it’s a recurring theme when it comes to most aspects of complex projects that require both a high-level view and granular detail. I could contextualise granularity by comparing it to a magnifying glass, or a better example like Google Maps. If you look at a country on Google Maps you will perhaps see some of the major cities. As you zoom in you will notice that the smaller towns begin to appear on the map. The closer you zoom in the more granular you go and it’s that kind of granularity I mean when I talk about focussing on specific segments within a large organisation. The Greiner’s Growth Model can, therefore, be used to describe the entire organisation’s journey, and/or the journey relating to specific business sectors or units within the organisation.


The Six Phases of The Greiner's Growth Model

For now, I will present just the six phases. For each phase, there is always mention of “Crisis” which is not actually always relevant as not every organisation will experience crisis leading from the same issues, in the same order or even to the same degree.

  1. Growth through creativity
  2. Growth through direction
  3. Growth through delegation
  4. Growth through coordination and monitoring
  5. Growth through collaboration
  6. Growth through extra-organisational solutions

If the mission is to impact learning outcomes on an organisation-wide level we would examine the current status and develop strategies for optimisation in all six. If we are intervening on a departmental level we may decide to focus on just one or two to get started.


What Exactly Does Peak Performance Look Like?

The Greiner’s Model can be a good starting point when it comes to really understanding the Learning & Development needs of your organisation. When it comes to training programmes, however, it is often the case where learning needs are taken for granted and not always investigated sufficiently. This will usually result in disappointing results. Learning and Development really need to partner with leaders and HR professionals, set up the meetings, and ask critically important consulting questions in order to identify what the various functions need, and the current state of the employees’ skills, abilities, and attitudes. It’s always important to spend time identifying what ideal state looks like too and to explore what the top performers are doing that distinguishes them from the rest.

Interestingly, a lot of organisations describe peak performance while only focussing on how well we can run projects and deliver products, without considering learning development at all. In my book, peak performance will always be at least partially measured by the degree to which we learn, grow and improve ourselves as we work. That's why as a Project Manager, learning development will always be a part of the final goal.


Why Learning & Development is Really All About User Experience

If we step into the realm of User Experience for a second we can simplify the logic behind this aspect of defining, leading and measuring learning development. Most of the time when we use words relating to UX we are talking about digital product development. As a digital team, we explore the User Experience for our end users. As a Digital Project Manager, it's very beneficial to also consider the team experience with the same degree of attention. By doing so, we focus on the people developing the product. We all know that product development projects start and finish, that's logical, but the people are (or should be) the real constant that will enable growth for our organisations in the long term.

When designing the user experience we will always, at the very least, identify the following:

  1. User Personas, User Scenarios & User Stories
  2. Pain (again, it doesn’t have to be literally painful, just like organisations don’t necessarily need to experience actual crisis for this to be a crucially important part of growth)
  3. Goals
  4. Metrics

So in the context of learning development when we talk about User Personas, Scenarios and User Stories we are really articulating who we are creating the training solutions for and describing the transformations that the learning, and ultimately the insight that the trainees gain, will result in. I mentioned in the opening paragraph that I often deliver learning solutions under the disguise of Project Manager. Project Management is a core activity for me, and when we contemplate on how to get the best possible return on our efforts as a team we will always conclude that throughout the project we must always strive to develop our people, our teams and our competencies. Rather than simply successfully complete the project and deliver as planned, we want to deliver, learn and grow from the experience, always.

At this point, we have very briefly considered the growth phases the organisation is transitioning to and from, the degree of granularity within the organisation (where, specifically, is the training required?) and we have explored what the ideal situation or outcome looks like from both the organisation’s and the trainees’ perspectives.

In a future post, I will go over the neuroscience of adult learning, creating behaviour change and best practices for effective learning. I will follow that with an outline of the key elements of organisational learning and development where I will go into detail into learning systems and processes and I will conclude this series with indications on curating content and last, but by no means least, evaluating methods.

What do you think? Is Organisational Learning & Development, User Experience and Digital Project Management all connected?