Welcome to the top table, L&D?

I reckon that I have been in the L&D game for about ten years now. In that time, the industry has consistently bemoaned its absence from the top table of organisations. The imperative to bring the people development agenda into the strategic realm of senior decision makers is a constant refrain and a constantly unmet goal. 

Maybe that has changed though with the arrival of the thoroughbreds of leadership advice to the arena in the form of McKinsey & Company and their collection of articles on The Future of Capability Building. I wonder what these bright and shiny thinkers have to say on the topic?

They clearly call out the need to extend our imagination regarding capability building and reach beyond the tired format of the classroom event. (Sound familiar?). They introduce the idea of short form content and asynchronous experiences to generate, rehearse and embed new skills and behaviours over time. (Not the newest chestnut on the tree). Using technology to simulate and emerse a learner in new possibilities for places, processes and equipment is highlighted. (Another echo from the L&D conference floor). The powerful possibilities of data analysis to personalise and adapt development paths to individual needs is described. (You get the picture).

When I first read this stuff this morning, with my toast, a wry smile formed. My, brief, ten year history is littered with the comings and goings of these debates as each new silver bullet was fired into the darkness. There was nothing new here. The diagnosis and prescribed treatment had been offered many times by many people for many years.

This is frustrating, perhaps, but at least the strengths of these ideas is endorsed by those who are at the top table. In fact, these folks set the table, draft the menu and invite the diners. We are in influential company if not in influence quite yet. At some point, L&D teams will be told the time with our own watches by the great denizens of McKinsey Towers. That’s something to look forward to, no?

One lesson from my breakfast reading which is valuable is the story McKinsey tells in the analysis and the presentation. They clearly focus on the business value of this diagnosis and recommended course of treatment. They are clear about the problems and benefits where we tend to get trapped in the inherent good of people development. They know why business leaders should and do care about this stuff. They talk about business strategy not only people strategy. They talk about investment and return on long term capability development, not the ROI of a programme. They aren’t flogging the inert horse of performance development versus training delivery.

That’s my take out from this – audience access and relevance of conversation.

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