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Adopt This Strategy or Get Left Behind

 

Adopt this Strategy or Get Left Behind

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The United States Army War College, also known as “the school for generals,” coined the term “VUCA.” VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. If you are a leader in today’s business world, you probably agree that VUCA perfectly describes today’s confusing and ever-changing business landscape. You would probably also agree that strategies which worked 20 years ago are no longer working. We need new, effective strategies for this VUCA landscape if we want to not just survive, but to thrive.

According to Harvard Business School professor, Michael Porter, competitive strategy is a firm’s choice about where it will and will not compete and how it will create perpetual value and a consistent return on investment. Strategy alone is not enough. Peter Drucker once wrote, “Culture will eat strategy for breakfast.” Intelligent strategy must be directly aligned to learning and leadership.

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In this world of rapid changes, organizations must adapt and cultivate learning agility. Reluctance to be flexible means not having a competitive advantage and resorting to complacency. Learning agility enables adaptability. Incorporating a strategic approach takes more than a few workshops; it requires constant learning to accurately anticipate changes and pivot as necessary.   


Workplace learning should not just be an intellectual enterprise. The organization’s learning function must be tied to the business strategy.

To assure progress and prosperity, organizations must integrate learning with the business function. Many people think change is this disruptive, monumental event, but the reality is the most dangerous changes are subtle and gradual. Think for a moment about the fable of the frog who is slowly boiled alive. Most organizations will not perceive cautionary danger until they are cooked to death. This is why learning to learn and reflection is not a faddish learning intervention but a necessity for staying ahead of and ready for the VUCA business landscape.

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In order to do this, organizations must build on their strengths and make learning a top-down priority. Most companies are already retooling and reinventing themselves as learning and innovative companies. Yet, these companies represent the few in comparison to the many who are gradually making the shift.

Most companies are still treating learning as a separate entity; as an isolated part of the business usually perceived as an educational, nice-to-have classroom or e-learning process with little or no direct alignment to strategy. We now know through extensive academic and industry research that learning is context-dependent and social. Formal, classroom learning represents 10% and the other 90% is happening informally, without much accountability for systematically using that learning for a real competitive advantage.   

So where do we start? How can we get a grip on VUCA? The first step in gaining learning agility is understanding the different facets of learning that are interwoven into our daily lives. Once you recognize them, you can embed them into workplace and start to question how each one contributes to your organizational strategy. The following are considered learning modes which occur in the workplace:

The 7 Learning Modes

1. Learning Essentials: Use traditional academic concepts and frameworks to teach general knowledge and basic skills, such as languages.

2. Self-Leadership Development: Empowering individuals to become lifelong learners in pursuit of achieving mastery and contribution in their personal and professional lives.

3. Situational Learning: Modify learning programs to meet your specific situation.

4. Action Learning: Acquiring knowledge through action and reflection as drivers for improved performance.

5. Strategic Learning: Apply learning (such as methods for developing strategies) throughout the entire organizations.

6. Engine for Industry Transformation: Provide learning throughout an entire industry network, including other organizations. (This takes acute political skill.)

7. Social Learning: Employees learn by working with their colleagues to leverage each other’s experience and knowledge.
 

Support Structures for Learning

Learning and development professionals need to understand coaching, mentoring, and facilitating. These tools fit the notion that adults should get support for their learning, along with time to reflect, rather than just being taught.

Mentors share lessons from their experience and form long-term relationships with their protégés. Coaches perform time-defined interventions and avoid offering advice or opinion. “Executive coaching” describes having high-level, often external, coaches come in to work with senior leaders. Everyday coaching means that managers and other leaders guide team members using feedback, skills development, and motivation.

Measuring the Impact of Learning

When you set out to evaluate your learning program’s effectiveness and impact, decide which metrics align to the organizational strategy. Identify the goals of the evaluation. Outline the data and information you’ll need and how you’ll collect it. For example, will you use benchmark data or data from surveys, interviews, and focus groups? Decide who should join your evaluation team. Go beyond traditional evaluation methods and start learning about people analytics and data science. There are more effective ways to collect relevant and just-in-time information.

Your evaluation should test your learning program’s alignment with your organization’s values, culture, and strategy. Assess whether HR’s specific interventions have led to teams and individuals learning new skills (and the correct skills) and to whether the returns from those initiatives outweigh the costs. Evaluate each program based on whether learning took place and if learners are eager to continue learning beyond the scope of the classroom or e-course. Examine the business impact of the learning you’ve facilitated. Compare the results of pre and post-program tests and include adaptive learning practices that do away with redundancy and focus on mastery. Assess if and how learning changed behavior and performance towards the execution of strategy.  Much of the value of learning remains intangible. However, if you quantify the benefits, you may discover a new competitive advantage.


Do you need assistance with developing or solidifying your company’s learning strategy?

Turnaround Training Technologies (TTT) is a Learning and Development firm providing comprehensive L&D analysis and evidence-based training programs that help companies maximize their resources and achieve their highest organizational goals.

We equip you and your team with cutting-edge tools, insights, and the mindset necessary to ignite growth and propel your organizations forward so you can thrive in today’s fast-paced, interconnected economy. By integrating rigorous academics, engaging case studies, and real-world simulations, we facilitate unparalleled learning experiences that transfer seamlessly from the classroom into the real world.

Contact Us today to request a complimentary workshop or to schedule a complimentary consultation. We look forward to helping you take your organization to the next level!

Oscar Arias is the Founder and C.L.O. of Turnaround Training Technologies (TTT). His articles are inspired by the experience he gained working with over 65 corporate universities, as well as his current research as a Doctoral Student of the University of Pennsylvania's world-renowned Chief Learning Officer Program.