The essence of strategy

photo credit: CANDYMAN via photopin (license)
photo credit: CANDYMAN via photopin (license)

is choosing what not to do.
Michael Porter

This is the 5th and final post following my session at the CIPD LD show. As you may have read I’ve been detailing the outputs from an exercise that the participants undertook. The last part of the exercise was about strategy;  what business aims and objectives needed to be factored into developing a different offer

The group in this area spent a long time discussing what they felt were the important issues and came up with the following:

  • Risk management
  • Accountability
  • Risk – embrace?
  • Embracing ambiguity
  • Create a skilled/knowledgeable organisation
  • Deliver better results
  • Embrace new ways of working
  • Bridge the knowledge gap
  • Increase business performance

I always thought the function of L&D was to create a skilled/knowledgeable organisation. If it’s not our purpose, what is it that we’ve been doing? Have we created interventions for our benefit? I think this is more about changing the perception of L&D; if we can be trusted by the organisation to develop people for the organisation’s sake (rather than for the benefit of L&D data) we will earn that respect as a profession which can engineer solutions, not just sell courses.

I seem to have regular conversations with people about risk management. Most often I’m asked to consider how we need to mitigate for particular activity. What then happens is people mitigating to the point where nothing changes. This isn’t risk awareness – this is risk aversion. How will you overcome this attitude from managers in the business? More importantly, how do you overcome this with your peers in learning and development?

I love the idea of embracing ambiguity. Neil Denny describes this as The Delicious Discomfort in Not Knowing, or We don’t know what we’re doing; Let’s go! If we have a strategy in L&D which is mapped, planned, regulated, monitored, measured, tracked and managed…what space is left for us to do things differently?

I enjoyed the CIPD show immensely; the feedback from the participants suggested the same. It’s left me, however, with a few questions:

  • What is a L&D strategy and should it be anything other than a business strategy?
  • What networks within (and without) our organisations need to change to demonstrate L&D’s relevance and how does L&D stop the tail wagging the dog?
  • What legacy systems and processes are limiting innovation in L&D ?
  • What can we do to develop L&D digital and social literacy?
  • How does your L&D team’s maturity impact on its offer?

I’ll be discussing these questions, and many more, with Nigel Paine at the Learning Technologies Summer Forum this week. If you’re at the event, please join in the conversation as I think these questions matter. If you’re not at the event please leave your comments below.

6 thoughts on “The essence of strategy

  1. Thanks for this article, quite thought-provoking. So previously you thought L&D creates ‘a skilled/ knowledgeable organization’ – I wonder what it means to you after this exercise? Does it mean anything else?


    1. Thanks John; I got a lot from doing this and reflecting on it over the last few weeks. I’ll probably do a summary post which also considers the Learning Technology Summer Forum that I was at this week.


  2. Interesting questions. As someone who is working on an L&D strategy, would love to hear about what came out of your discussions at the Learning Technology Forum. I would also be happy to share what I’ve been working as well.


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