What’s wrong with learning and development?

I believe it’s a simple diagnosis.

Learning and development programming is created for the purposes of the department and the people leading those programs. This is not their fault, of course, because this self-inflicted problem exists for the same reasons anything exists in a corporate environment: the need to demonstrate value. 

And what better way to demonstrate value than to create a dashboard tabulating this year’s learning and development events, participants, and some type of ROI measurement?

That’s easy! Make learning and development valuable to the people it’s intended to support: learners!

The situation reminds me of a concept in McGregor’s The Human Side of Enterprise that has stuck with me since I read it. He writes about the idea of service and how staff (HR, IT, L&D, planning, etc.) should exist to serve the operation and managers should ask staff for help when they need it.

Most organizations operate in the opposite direction. Executives decide that a leadership development program should exist. The Learning & Development Department creates it. Then the executives and the L&D leadership “sell” the program to participants whose interest ranges from indifferent to moderate.

Even for a great salesperson, it’s difficult to make a sale to a disinterested buyer.

McGregor writes about management development staff: “The help it will be prepared to give will seldom take the form of detailed formal procedures or canned training courses. It will be help to managers—individually or collectively—in finding and utilizing whatever means will best meet their needs.”

He goes on, “Programs and procedures do not cause management development, because it is not possible to “produce” managers the way we produce products. We can only hope to “grow” them, and growth depends less on the tools we use than on the environment which is created.” 

Here Be Dragons

A tiny, copper globe in the bowels of the New York Public Library holds one of the world’s most famous warnings: “HC SVNT DRACONES.”

For centuries it served as a cartographical cautionary idiom for the explorers pushing the boundaries of the known world. It meant, in effect, that just around the corner could be disaster.

A dragon! Surprise!

It sounds a little like what the map of a healthcare administration career might look like today. Get to the edges of change and watch out: there could be dragons.

Figuratively that is. Because in reality dragons are a myth and so is the fabled “Here Be Dragons” sentiment built by centuries of imaginations and the very real sea creature drawings of medieval mapmakers. 

But I love the analogy. 

Work is filled with surprise as a result of complexity. 

Surprise, however, is not our problem. We know it’s coming. The trouble, in my estimation, is our our inability to respond to it. We’re relying on a (hypothetical) map full of (proverbial) unexplored territory with no cautionary cartographical warnings of (metaphorical) dragons.

I believe to be successful as an administrator and to contribute to the success of an organization we need to be ready for the dragons.

So here it is: Here Be Dragons.