Through our years of research on what makes a great training organization, we’ve identified eight core capabilities of high-performing training organizations. The first, and most important, capability is strategic alignment – an organization’s ability to design learning solutions and processes that support the business’ mission-critical objectives. Our research found that most training leaders understand the importance of alignment. But, ironically, it also told us that most training leaders struggle with how to transform their organization into one that is strategically aligned.
In some ways, strategic alignment seems like a nebulous concept. But there are very specific practices associated with how to ensure that your organization’s processes and solutions are aligned to the needs of the business. These activities are not about waiting until after you’ve selected a course and later trying to rationalize its usefulness and value. All the practices of alignment are proactive activities done prior to making decisions about whether a course should be offered, or more so, to determine if training is even needed.
To implement these practices, some training leaders recognize their organization needs a transformation or some type of change that transforms them from traditional approaches of training management to those that are performance-oriented, competency-based, and with processes that are well-defined, measured and truly create value. They are looking for a better way to manage their function and recognize their organization is going through the motions of running courses but not making a difference.
Transforming to an organization that is strategically aligned means transforming to one that focuses on the success of the business, and the performance of those that make the business successful. So, here are a few ideas to consider prior to beginning a transformation initiative.
- Invest time in learning the process of transformation. Transformation is a change management initiative. Change of this magnitude requires a structured, methodical approach. It is not an approach that you learn as you go.
- Change your focus to performance. High-performing training organizations are not course-oriented, they are performance-oriented. Courses are a vehicle for performance change, not the reason your organization exists.
- Create a vision of what your organization should transform to. This is often referred to as defining your mission. I like to refer to it as defining future state. Be very clear about what you expect your organization to look like, behave like, what it will deliver and how it will measure success in the future state.
- Establish a baseline. Before creating an implementation plan, take a step back and assess where you are. A common mistake of training leaders is to begin creating a plan of change without a clear understanding of their organization’s current capabilities. Using a third party to conduct an objective assessment may help minimize bias and help you focus on what your clients may see that you may not.
- Engage your constituents and partners. The process of transformation is not your initiative to manage alone – it requires the collaborative efforts of your staff, constituents and your partners. They all have a vested stake in the success and can contribute to the design, plan and implementation process.
- Optimize current resources. Before a full-scale change, clean up the easy wins that won’t require massive effort. Evaluate your portfolio. Stop doing things that don’t have value. You may be surprised how much improvement you can make quickly by focusing on doing less
- Remember that change is about incremental improvements. Organizational transformation is not a one-time effort. Change comes in incremental steps: you implement change, you assess and you implement new changes. And when you think you have arrived, it’s time to start over. Everyone else is not standing still around you; your company is changing while you are changing, and technologies are changing while you are changing. Success is a moving target. So, think of transformation as an ongoing cycle of improvement.