Shifting the focus of Organisational Learning and Development Solutions

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“What’s important is not what you are doing but why you are doing it because that determines how you do it.” – dehumob

Results are achieved by doing something well enough to overcome any contextual obstacles presented by the environment. In other words, results are achieved when chosen actions are executed with a proficiency level high enough to overcome the prevailing complexities.

In order to help employees become more effective in their roles, we need solve for three things:

  1. Results
    1. Definition: The individual’s goal, i.e. what they are trying to achieve. Individuals have a way of knowing whether or not they are achieving their intended result. This internal measurements or indicators might be conscious or sub conscious and might be accurate or inaccurate, nevertheless this is what is true to the individual and represents how the individual tracks their progress.
    2. Implications: the individuals desired results might differ from that expected of them in their job, role or department. Finding ways to raise individual’s and business unit/line manager’s awareness of this possible misalignment is a key focus of this framework.
    3. Requirement: finding an appropriate way to define and articulate the results to be achieved by people in jobs or roles. Could also be articulated at the business unit or department level. The critical point is that it has to be measurable or have clear indicators that individuals can personally use to assess level of alignment as well as track their progress.
  2. Actions
    1. Definition: What someone does that is observable. Must be clearly observable and not require an explanation or interpretation (meaning everyone who observes it will see it). It should be possible to answer the question – did he/she do it or not? Where the answer is a simple yes, no or not-observed.
    2. Implications: assumes individuals’ actions are motivated by 1) the results they are trying to achieve, 2) their awareness and understanding of the actions that will aid achieving the result and 3) their level of confidence in their ability to execute those action well enough to achieve the result. With this view, action is seen as a choice. The intent here is to use the organisational strategy and structure to define the preferred actions and then use this to guide what individuals choose to do as they pursue the results (the critical point however is knowing individuals can still choose actions not aligned to strategy even though pursued results are aligned). Raising awareness and understanding of preferred actions aligned to strategy and results is a focus of this framework.
    3. Requirement: An appropriate way to list and describe observable actions necessary to achieve the results such that the conceptual labels attached are clear, obviously recognised when observed and holds same meaning to everybody concerned. While the pursued results answer the ‘why’, and chosen actions answer the ‘how’.
  3. Adequate Proficiency Level
    1. Definition: refers to how well an action is executed, however, the focus here is not an isolated action but the configuration of the range of actions in the moment and over the time required to achieve the desired result. I would say the quality of the executed actions within a specific context should directly relate to ability to achieve results in that context. This means adequate or high enough proficiency should translate to intended results being predictably and consistently achieved
    2. Implications: the framework views proficiency primarily as a dynamic state managed primarily by the level of discretionary effort on the part of the individual. The assumption here is that this requires a continuous self evaluation process focused on awareness of desired results and ability to achieve said results. The intent here is to avoid using arbitrary benchmarks of proficiency and instead focuses on the on-going caliberation of 1) Level of awareness of desired results, 2) Types of actions chosen, 3) awareness of presenting contextual complexities affecting mix and quality of actions necessary to achieve desired results. The achievement of results is the primary indicator of proficiency level. The development aspect of the framework focuses on the support systems and scaffolds. There is a specific requirement that the level of expertise associated with the ‘experts’ providing the support is validated using the same principles of dynamic proficiency. The framework recognizes and differentiates between subject matter expertise (theoretical expertise e.g. operating from organisational Centres of Expertise – COEs) and practitioner expertise (contextual expertise e.g. as applied within a specific role).
    3. Requirement: a reliable and valid way to dynamically capture and represent varying levels of contextual complexity and use these to calibrate adequate proficiency levels for various actions associated with those levels of complexity. A reference point always being anyone who is managing to consistently achieve desired results through preferred actions within that unique context.

Using a simple 4-category model to summarise an employee development needs approach


Proposed Learning and Development Objectives

The goal is to help individuals learn how to do what they need to do well enough to achieve the results they need to achieve.

  1. Knowledge: being aware, and having adequate understanding, of
    1. The results to be achieved and whether or not they are achieving them at the moment
    2. The actions required to be taken to achieve them including how well the actions need to be executed. In organisations it also includes knowing how aligned their choices of actions are to strategy or line expectations
    3. Their own self (internal states e.g. cognitive, emotional, dispositions, etc) in relation to the expected results, the expected actions and the typical / atypical situations and contexts with the associated obstacles or challenges
  2. Skills: this includes
    1. Being able to execute various appropriate actions across familiar and unfamiliar situations to achieve desired results
    2. Being able to develop higher proficiency levels across the range of actions to be executed
    3. Being able to manage self to respond to inadequacies in knowledge and skills with actions that are effective in acquiring necessary knowledge or developing necessary skills
  3. Choices & Dispositions: willingness to change. Applying the knowledge and skills objectives above towards raising the level of self awareness around the conscious choices in relation to the need for change and continuing development and commitment to continuing development and change.

Implications for Learning and Development Solutions 
The idea is to prioritise readiness to learn and develop over delivery of instruction. This means prioritising evaluation tools that raise the level of awareness of needs over developing tools that address specific needs. The rationale here is there are ample options available to address most of the learning needs people might have but there aren’t enough support tools to help people understand what would be beneficial to them and also guide them to the right resources.

In order to truly address capability and proficiency development in the workplace, I believe we need to solve for these 3 things (looking at the individual)

  1. People are not fully aware or fully intune with their intended results or what they are doing to try to achieve it and therefore are not consciously addressing any limitations associated with lack of knowledge or skills – we need to create self awareness tools like psychometric tests to provide individuals with insight into their behavioural traits, contextually (role and environment) knowledge and skill tests to provide insights on level of knowledge and skills possessed in comparison with what is deemed effective in that context.
  2. People are trying to address the knowledge and skill limitations but their efforts are not effective – we need to provide learning scaffolds in the environment that ensure the effort invested by the invidiual is matched with the right level of environment support to ensure positive returns (zone of proximal development)
  3. People have set very low achievement levels and are not sufficiently motivated to raise the bar on the results they are pursuing and thus do not see limitations in knowledge and skills as relevant – we need to be able to guide individuals towards uncovering their motivations in life as an adult and what role jobs and career play. With the pace of change in the world, whatever a person is doing, they need to be moving forward otherwise they are moving backwards whether they are actually moving backward or the world is moving forward faster than they are. The end state will eventually be oblivion

Evaluation tools are a first step to providing the level of insight that allows an individual to make a choice about how to proceed and also allow anyone providing support to have an idea what type and level of support is required. Therefore the emphasis is on evaluation tools.

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