Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Aligning L&D with Business

The traditional focus for L&D has been training-centric. It is slowly moving towards being learning-centric. But it is important to not stop there and continue to make it business-centric.

In trying to align itself with the business, at times, L&D tends to feel isolated. There can be many reasons for the same. Sometimes, it may be the mindset more than the structure that prevents us from making the shift. As L&D, if we consider our role as tactical rather than strategic, then we get caught up in the details of 'what training to build' and don't feel the need to see the bigger picture of 'what will help the business perform better'. When L&D thinks about performance as the main objective, the alignment with the business is not forced; it is natural. The view becomes more long term rather than short term.

I hear people and businesses talking about performance consulting as L&D merging into OD (Organizational Development) initiatives. If such is the transition, L&D needs a broader range of skills including wearing several hats including business, marketing, HR, and OD. It is also important that when L&D wears these hats, it also uses the right vocabulary. If L&D cannot talk business with folks who understand that language, partnership becomes tricky. Sometimes, vocabulary does really get in the way.

Before L&D makes an attempt to demonstrate their value to the business, we need to evaluate where our time, effort and resources have been invested. Perhaps, reviewing all the work that we are currently engaged in and identifying the degree of alignment with the business is a good place to start.

It is important that we re-prioritize, re-align and re-focus on questions like:
  • What is the challenge that the business is facing or is likely to face in the near future?
  • What can L&D do to meet the challenge? 
  • Can training/improving performance address the challenge partially/completely? If yes, what skills are important to address the challenge?
  • How can L&D create opportunities for gaining those skills - both the underlying knowledge and the overarching experiences - to meet the challenge?
  • How can L&D communicate more effectively with all its stakeholders including employees, managers and leaders?
  • How can L&D articulate its impact on the business and communicate how a challenge was met successfully? 
  • How can L&D run like a business and build its value and credibility?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Challenging Our Assumptions

Our underlying assumptions constitute our points of view and unknown to us, they guide many decisions that we make on a daily basis including the ones that we make as learning designers. To add to the challenge, assumptions are not always stated explicitly. There are many implicit assumptions that effect how we see, think, feel and act. Challenging these assumptions means questioning the everyday things we take for granted. It is tough to do but worth the effort. Here's a story from my life where I challenged one of my underlying assumptions.

When I started out in this profession, there was one particular area about adult learning that I had not thought about deeply. That was the role of spirituality in the way we approach self-development and learning. And when I say spirituality, I speak of meaning-making and not religion per se.

As I was learning about learning, I started to explore my own view of spirituality and my assumptions around learning, growth and self-development. That’s when I realized that my view was being predominantly filtered by the eastern philosophy having been born and brought up in that community. It was only a decade ago when I started working closely with folks who were born and brought up in a western philosophy that this assumption truly became explicit and I started to challenge it more consciously.

After questioning my own assumptions and uncovering some of the underlying beliefs, I now spend a lot of time learning about different cultures and practices. I think it helps me refine my own beliefs about learning and offers one of the many guiding posts in my practice as an adult educator. As a facilitator, learning more about the underlying beliefs about different cultures and the related learning practices helps me appreciate where everyone is coming from. I am able to then engage with them at a level they feel most comfortable.

I read somewhere that "there is no fixed understanding of self because it is socially and historically constituted and that it varies across time and cultures".  I find this statement to be very true for my own experience of trying to understand my self; this journey is always evolving.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Participation and Silence

Participation is critical to learning particularly as a way to challenge our ideas and beliefs, share our thoughts and discover new ways of thinking. But what does ‘participation' typically look like? Does all participation need to be verbal or loud? 

Well, participation is not always about being the first to respond or about having lengthy group discussions and debates. Participation can be facilitated via a simple voting activity with a yes/no response or using social media tools and technologies – for example, tweet a reflection or write a blog post, etc. Being shy, anxious or not much of a talker does not absolve anyone from the responsibility of participating in a learning experience. Having said that, it is important to realize that participation may be different for different people. 

Silence, often misunderstood, also speaks. It gives us the pauses that we need to learn and to teach. Some times, silence is about being respectful and at other times, it is self-protective. But silence is also participative. One participant's silence enables another participant's voice to be heard. 

I loved this post on 'Sanctioning Silence in the Classroom' where the author says:

"In his "Lecture on Nothing" from his book Silence, John Cage states that "What we require is silence; but what silence requires is that I go on talking." Silence and speech exist together in a symbiotic relationship. Silence is not merely the antithesis of speech but rather the necessary precondition for authentic, lively, and engaged speech."

To me, participation is as much a collective responsibility of the group as it is an individual responsibility. Everyone needs to feel that their contribution is adding to the learning experience and is ultimately facilitating new conversations. The learning environment has a role to play as do the facilitators in encouraging the right kind of participation. But participation is not about the frequency or the quantity of conversations. Participation is about engaging fully and authentically and sometimes being silent is a way to do it.