Time to put T&D back into the strategic loop

I am looking forward to the debate at the TD2000 event on 16 March at the
Cumberland Hotel in London, essentially because it is a chance to reverse the
notion that "training and development remains out of the loop
strategically". We all know that if this really is the case then either
industry or T&D, or both, have lost the plot.

I believe we have to use the framework of double-loop learning to ensure
T&D are in the proper "strategic loop". A lot of training is,
rightly, to do with improving skills and doing things better operationally. You
don’t have to be particularly strategic about this – this is the operations
loop that feeds the business brain at all levels of the organisation. Simple
analysis tells us when skills, speed, quality and accuracy have to be improved
for competitive performance – it is the same in sport, the military, politics,
public and voluntary sectors or business.

Analysis also tells us we need to practise in teams to complement individual
expertise with collective support – this is not strategic, this is operational
excellence – hence teambuilding isn’t a one-off, mind-blowing experience, it is
a continual process.

Strategy in T&D comes with the complementary second loop, also feeding
the business brain, which is the re-framing loop. This informs our decisions or
direction, often with information and trends from outside the organisation.

How are we to use T&D to advance the business? Do we need to change
culture? Then use learning to change culture. Do we need to champion change?
Then use learning to link with change management all the way. Do we need to
gain coherence around vision and values? Then ensure our T&D is consistent
and supportive of them.

The strategic loop also informs about the nature as well as the strategic
place of training. For years we have neglected right-hand brain development,
preferring to concentrate on left-hand brain operations loop skill development.
Right-hand brain development has been left to the "personal
development" industry, often with its soft, fluffy and Californian image.

The strategic, re-framing loop can form a judgement on gaining a balance by
integrating right-hand brain development with left-hand brain skills training
at all levels to achieve the objectives of changing the culture, integrating
learning with change and championing vision and values.

This is not a prescription for the T&D function. The only way is for
this to provoke a debate on T&D strategy at the top of the organisation,
with the implementation led by the top team. This puts training at the heart of
business and training at the centre of the strategic loop.

By Professor Clive Morton

Independent HRconsultant, author and former vice-president of the IPD


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