A corporate training department is no exception… Every function is a business within a business.

Consider this: You don’t get your budget to pay your costs any more than you give a grocery store money for rent, utilities and salaries! Your budget is meant to pay for the products and services you “sell” to the rest of the enterprise.

This business-within-a-business perspective has many benefits. It brings out the best in staff, with everybody thinking and acting like an entrepreneur, continually seeking new ways to add value to customers. It leads to customer focus and great relationships with your internal customers. It induces creativity and innovation. It encourages frugality and efficiency to remain competitive. And it creates empowered, developmental, fulfilling jobs.

To bring this concept into focus, here are some of the products and services of an internal training department:

  • Seats in classes sponsored by the training department
  • Course delivery, where the customer supplies the courseware and the attendees
  • Course administration (such as student registration, facilities coordination and catering) for courses delivered by customers
  • Course development assistance to help subject matter experts format their knowledge as effective courseware
  • Course delivery platforms, including use of the training department’s learning management system
  • Professional credentials facilitation

Internal entrepreneurship starts with your organizational structure. Jobs must be defined as businesses (not the traditional roles, responsibilities, processes and tasks). So, what are the businesses within a training department?

There are five types of businesses within any organization, be it a training department or an entire company or university (the “building blocks” of structure):

  • Service Providers produce an ongoing stream of services. They keep things running.
  • Engineers design, build, repair and support solutions. They’re gurus in technologies and disciplines.
  • Coordinators help stakeholders come to agreement on shared decisions such as policies and plans.
  • Sales and Marketing build relationships with customers and help them discover how training services can add real value to their businesses (sometimes called strategic alignment).
  • Auditors inspect and judge others, and sometimes veto their decisions.

How do these lines of business apply to a training department? Here are some examples:

  • Service Providers: course administrators, training facility owner-operators, professional certification facilitators, course sponsors and topic-independent teachers
  • Engineers: curriculum design experts and, occasionally, subject matter experts in the courses that are routinely taught
  • Coordinators: professionals providing business planning for the training function itself, standards coordination and enterprise-wide training policy coordination
  • Sales and Marketing: relationship managers assigned to each business unit in the enterprise
  • Auditors: hopefully, none of these, since judging others is incompatible with serving others

Sorting out these lines of business within your organization chart gives staff a clear focus. It tells them what they’re supposed to be good at, and it avoids impossible jobs. It induces customer focus by defining their customers and their products/services. It minimizes conflicts of interest (like “keep things running, and also drive major innovations”). And it clarifies teamwork by defining who “sells” what to whom within your department.

Applying this framework to your organization also ensures that every line of business is covered somewhere. Even very small training departments are expected to deliver all the same services as big ones, so they need to know who’s the “lead” for each of these lines of business.

To get started, try these four steps:

  1. Using the framework of the five types of businesses within a business, identify which lines of business are within each group in your department.
  2. Do you see any gaps (missing accountabilities for lines of business)?
  3. Do you see any overlaps or shared accountabilities (leading to internal competition)?
  4. Do you see a group with too many different businesses (an impossible job, and perhaps conflicts of interests)?

If you see problems, organizational structure may be getting in the way of your success. The good news is we know how to fix it. Structure is a science (not an art). There are firm principles that can guide you, and there are clear definitions of the five types of businesses. And a well-tested, participative process of change has evolved over decades of practical experiences.

The science of organizational structure can help you develop a training department that’s the “vendor of choice” to your customers and the “employer of choice” to training professionals in your group and throughout your community.