To bridge the gap between businesses and their customers, people must be empowered and enabled to fully play their role. But the enablement of people is not only a matter of creating a training program that magically changes their behavior.

Learning how to be successful in a new or changing environment is a journey. Even if people are hired for their skills and experience, it remains a journey of change over time and does not realistically deliver an immediate change in behavior or ability.

Most organizations launch initiatives because they believe that someone needs to do something differently in their role. The challenge is to make that change happen in a measurable, sustainable way. The organizing construct that enables people to be successful in the modern world of work is called role-based enablement.

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The role-based enablement approach has three core pillars:

  1. It is architected based on a business outcome, the customer’s experience and the future-state profile of a role.
  2. It is experiential and sequenced based on how people learn.
  3. It is consistent, trackable and measured to an agreed-upon standard.

In the role-based approach, the goal is to obtain agreement from anyone who has an interest in the role (or the results that role is expected to produce) on a definition of success for both business and role. Unless there is a clear organizing construct to navigate the vast requirements, this simple-sounding exercise of documenting a shared vision can be insurmountable.

First, understand the business problem that needs to be solved through people. Gathering input from executives and understanding the big bets of the business strategy are one aspect of understanding the problem. The other is to be aware of the shifts in the organization’s industry and what’s required to adapt to those changes and challenges.

Second, based on that business outcome, understand the implications for the role. Ensure alignment with customers and their profiles, patterns and perceptions of value. In order to achieve the business outcome and successfully serve customers so that they are not just satisfied but delighted, it is vital to prioritize what someone in a role needs to know and do to achieve measurable success. Through that prioritization, some topics and subject matter may not be necessary, yet other areas may need to be extracted – areas like subject matter experts, frameworks and existing content.

Learning is not a forced march, delivered in time. Rather, it is a journey over time. Once there is an agreed upon, prioritized set of requirements based on outcomes, the next step is to determine the sequence and journey for that person, over time.

This blueprinted learning journey represents a structure that identifies and maps those requirements into a holistic view. Then, the organization documents and structures the blueprint is so it is easy to find, update and change as business outcomes shift over time. You’re now ready to design and build each “episode” of learning interaction. In order to design, build and deploy discrete assets that are easy and flexible to update, you need an iterative process.

In IT, product designers developed agile methods to rapidly produce iterations that are easily updated. Agile learning design borrows elements of those methods: iterative design, development sprints and the minimum viable product (MVP).

  • Iterative Design – Contribution and Interaction: Iterative design involves inviting experts to contribute their knowledge, frameworks and existing content to prioritized topics in the architecture. In this regard, the instructional design team acts as the facilitator of a knowledge-rendering process rather than attempting the impossible task of becoming experts themselves. Instructional designers’ expertise lies in incorporating the most relevant information into the learning interaction in the most effective way for the audience to digest, retain and use that new knowledge.
  • Development Sprints: Sprints are small productions and iterations whose goal is to be “good enough,” as defined by business stakeholders. Sprints allow for rapid bypass and vetting or approval for each iteration along the way.
  • Minimum Viable Product: The MVP is defined as what the stakeholder will accept as a first product, given his or her expectations and the essential business need.

More than anything, the agile process emphasizes the production of on-time and on-budget deliverables, not perfection; products can always be tweaked down the road. This process takes the form of iterations: short, intense periods of production with smaller, more achievable goals that build in further iterations.

By taking the architected approach to role enablement, the questions of measurement and traceability to value – so elusive when mired in random acts – become simple and elegant. The results of the learning experience are measured to an agreed-upon standard. Reinforcement by managers, built into the learning flow and design, becomes clean, and updates to the content are easily accomplished by a small team based on feedback and a regular cadence of reviews.

The role-based enablement approach provides a great opportunity for leaders to more clearly define their own purpose within an organization. By recognizing that systemic organizational shifts and changes are inevitable, yet not always possible to drive from a single point or initiative, enablement leaders can exert a major impact by facilitating the success of roles. As the intermediate construct between a business and its individuals, the role represents a viable way to create a clear value stream between the individual and his or her ability to contribute to business outcomes.

By focusing on roles and facilitating a cross-functional dialogue on their success, enablement leaders create a coherent and easy-to-navigate experience. It allows people to accomplish the work they are expected to do. It is a way to corral the random acts, solve the lack of measurement and stop chasing the shiny objects. In this way, enablement teams keep up with the business, collaborate and create a new way to win together.