David Caulfield

Learning+dev Mastery: 2. Strategise

This is a post from a larger series entitled A Path to Learning+dev Mastery.

As mentioned before, the path to mastery looks something like:

  • Understand the business objectives and strategy
  • Develop a learning+dev strategy that supports the business strategy - we will explore this here.
  • Consult and receive feedback from stakeholders.
  • Define the programs to meet the strategy including success criteria.
  • Execute the programs and track success.
  • Retrospect on progress and change based on feedback.

Figure out the business strategy first

We mentioned in the previous post how difficult it can be to figure out the business strategy. It's not always clear who has the best information or who is making the decisions, so it takes some time to find the right people to talk to. We will proceed based on the assumption you have at least an initial understanding of your business strategy. If you don't, it's best to start figuring it out as any learning+dev strategy you produce may be contrary to the org's strategy.

Initially, focus on the long-term

In the beginning, your focus should be on long-term objectives for your learning+dev strategy.

  • Where does the company need to be in 3-5 years?
  • What do they need to do to get there?
  • Who needs to be part of the journey?
  • What does the destination look like?

Forget about the cool workshop you're excited to run with the teams. Forget about the AI course you want to rollout. These are short-term goals, commonly known as tactics.

"Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat." - The Art of War

For example, let's say you work for a software company who wants to enter the automotive industry. Here's what the long term goals might look like:

  • Secure a tier-1 automotive customer within the next 3 years.
  • Generate revenue of €2m per month in the automotive domain within 3 years.

Now let's overlay this with some learning+dev goals.

  • Secure a tier-1 automotive customer within the next 3 years.
    • Establish a process to find new business opportunities in the automotive space such as communities of practice, Hackathons, competitions, industry site-visits.
    • Create a program that prepares the leadership team to engage with this industry.
  • Generate revenue of €2m per month in the automotive domain within 3 years.
    • Identify key talent to enable this growth (eg. Account Managers, Pre-sales engineers).
    • Bring key talent together to workshop long-term strategy.

Notice we're not quite diving into low-level tactics just yet. These goals provide enough direction without describing the finer details.

As you analyse your own company, build two pictures: The company's 3-year strategy and Learning+dev's 3-year strategy. Make sure your learning+dev strategy is linked to the company's goals.

Learning+dev strategy

Brainstorm tactics

Take your two sets of information and pick out the opportunities for you to get involved along that journey. Ignore what you know today as a Learning+dev practitioner - that's beside the point. You need to do whatever is required to push the car towards its destination, no matter what skills you need to learn. But remember your role in all of this. This is not where you shine as the lone hero. Going back to our first article: Learning+development should help people maximise value to their organisation.

As you outline what you need to bring to the table, make sure you have this statement in mind. If you find yourself as the sole player in this strategy, you need to revisit your strategy.

Now for some tactics. Read through both the company strategy and the Learning+dev strategy. Write down any idea that comes to mind to support these strategies. The purpose of these ideas is not to define initiatives or tactics, but rather to give your stakeholders a starting point to have a conversation. If all goes well, most of your ideas will get thrown out. But in throwing out your ideas, you build a better picture for your strategy. Here's an example.

Goal: Establish a process for identifying new opportunities and building proof of concepts in the automotive space. Learning+dev tactics:

  • Create an automotive community of practice lead by our automotive SMEs.
  • Define 5 small projects we could research and build in the automotive area to explore new business.
  • Host a Hackathon under the automotive theme and fund any promising projects.

Each goal should have 2-3 ideas under it, ranging from very small to large. Remember, the purpose here is to get conversation going. This is an early stage - we don't want to execute on anything yet.

This is how I visualise the strategy. Notice how each Learning+dev point is an idea to support a point in the main company strategy. There should never be an initiative that has no ties to the company strategy. Learning+dev tactics

Next we need to talk to our stakeholders and get some conversations going.

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