"Command-and-control managers like to buy change by training and projects, unaware that change really requires changing the system and unaware that that means first being prepared to change the way they think about the design and management of work."

John Seddon

Most corporate 'L&D' continues to collaborate with "command-and-control" managers.

Often 'L&D' are engaged in "capability and culture change initiatives" however the result of most of their efforts is keeping the work system in their organisations consistent, standardised and scalable.
This includes:

'Training in' fixed, predetermined skills lists;
Compliance and mandated 'learning';
Developing 'content' that links to Management approved 'capability frameworks';
'High potentials schemes';
Designing 'interventions' to support standardised job descriptions.

So, some new questions for corporate 'L&D' to understand th…
"What characterises corporate cult is the degree of control management exercises over employees' thinking and behaviour.

This starts with recruitment, where employees are screened for their "fit". Once in, they then see that on-boarding processes and incentive systems tend to reinforce the need for alignment."

Manfred Kets de Vries

Some questions for 'L&D' and their corporate inductions:

Does the induction set out the context for the organisation and the team the new colleague has joined?

Does the induction describe the key challenges for the organisation and the new contributions needed to solve these together?

Is the induction practically demonstrating the organisations' commitment as a continuously learning organisation?

Does the induction enable and accelerate new connections for the participants?

Does the induction help the participants to form a new network(s)?

Is the induction encouraging the participants to bring their unique, individual …
"Control, stability, and operational efficiency are no longer assets, but liabilities. It makes organizations slow and unresponsive. It commoditizes margins faster than companies can realize profitability.
Let that sink in. It will require a massive mental shift."

Rachel Happe

However "control, stability and operational efficiency" continue to be the over-riding focus (and purpose?) for 'L&D'.


Set repertoires and processes
Fixed skills and topics
'Learning' as "acquiring knowledge"
"Identifying problems" and then "creating solutions"
Reporting and celebrating on "visits and attendees"

These approaches and tactics continue to make 'L&D' itself "slow and unresponsive" too...

Paul works with L&D teams who are ready to make the mental shift from managing to leading.

"Treating training as the 'encoding' of skills and knowledge in students and employees to create a ready and immediately deployable workforce is a disastrous fit for this VUCA economy..."

Heather McGowan

Most corporate 'L&D' is built on the centralised, industrial era priority of efficiency through control.

The underpinning perspective: "Get given a problem by Management and solve it". Reacting to the urgent. The immovable mantra? "Let's make the training better".

I believe this mindset is now being further reinforced by the new group-think drama of 'data and analytics'. Showing Management (using their own language) that 'L&D' is a willing ally in the quest to 'drive efficiencies'; (and reduce costs).

So I see 'L&D's continuing bureaucratic focus on:

'Topics' (what we say you need)

'Content' (where we say you can find it)

'Channels' (when we say you'll find it)

"Where we all think alike, no-one thinks much at all"

Walt Whitman

It's interesting to reflect on the the industrial structures and bureaucratic language now adopted by many corporate 'L&D' teams:

"Learning solution"
"Learning program"
"Learning delivery plan"
"Learning implementation"
"Capability framework"
"Learning requirements"
"Skills matrices"
"Learning deployment activities"
"Learning objectives tracking"
"Learning measurement framework"

This narrative reinforces a view of "learning" which is functionally structured and centrally controlled.

I believe L&D's ongoing quest to be accepted as bona fide function has driven this shift in language. The choice to align with what is familiar and expected by senior leaders, in particular Management's apparent interest in only what can be "measured".

Here are some new words which …
I was very grateful to be asked to speak at this year's LearnTec Conference as part of Jane Hart's Modern Workplace Learning track.

Here are some of the ideas, assertions and question that I included in my presentation:

1. There remains an amazing, untapped opportunity to help people to work better together in a time of unprecedented change in the world of work.

2. In the 2018 Harvard Business Review study of 1,300 executives only 7% ranked developing a continuous learning culture as their number one strategic priority. This is a systematic leadership failure and, a call to action.

3. 'L&D' is mostly stuck in management mode at a time when organisations and managers need leadership, inspiration and new ideas.

4. 'L&D' only seems to talk about the same three things:
a) Controlling 'content' and 'delivery' (tools and tactics)
b) Creating 'programs' (for 'speed to compliance')
c) Their useful identity...

5. 'L&D'…
"Learning practitioners are aware they need to overcome new skills to overcome contemporary challenges. However, they seem stuck with old behaviour patterns established decades ago.
The research has shown that learning practitioners are so often consumed by the burden of delivering today that they are unable to prepare themselves and their stakeholders for a different future."

After fifteen years of research this is a strange place to find ourselves in.

Here are my own reflections and questions on the latest annual Towards Maturity 'Transformation Journey" Insights report:

"90% of L&D teams want to cultivate 'agility'"
(Whilst) "96% of L&D teams want to improve access to 'resources'"
This is a strategy oxymoron. These objectives are indicative of two very different organisational cultures and therefore expectations of 'L&D'.

"Productivity increased by 14% as a result of 'learning interventions'"