Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

Creating a Strategy (3) – Aligned and Fit for Purpose

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

If Part 2 was the engine room, Part 3 is all about the different lubricants to keep the engine performing. Engine oils and other lubricants are constantly being improved. If your engine can be improved by using these improved lubricants, you should use them. Whilst I am a dvocating a 5-year strategy to give stability and focus to the vision, I also advocate constantly reviewing it to make sure it’s relevant.

Sections 6 – 9 in this post need to be revisited and amended at least annually. It’s a case of carrying out your MOT – Maximising Our Training.

If you are managing a Learning and Development unit, I’m guessing that you have a finite budget? I’m also reasonably confident that you will have more requests than you can meet with this finite budget?  In which case, you need to maximise those resources.

To deliverer optimum value from your budget, you need a process or processes to ensure that:

  1. only those who really need the learning interventions get them,
  2. where a course is involved, it is run at maximum occupancy, and
  3. those who undertake such interventions have demonstrated that they have the new skills once they return to the workplace.

Section 6 – Organisational Needs Analysis

Based on my previous arguments around whether this Strategy should be a ‘Training’ or ‘Performance Improvement’ Strategy, it should come as no surprise that I advocate a Performance Needs Analysis (PNA) as opposed to a Training Needs Analysis (TNA). Very different entities. I have previously discussed a model for an effective PNA, and this section should summarise the process your organisation will use in relation to assessing its performance needs.

Section 7 – Prioritisation of Needs

Then comes the thorny issue of deciding which, and how many, of the needs you can address. My experience is that the organisation likes the L & D function to undertake this activity. My advice would be not to! The client side is responsible for prioritisation, the L & D side is responsible to effective delivery. If you have a finite budget and some needs cannot be met, who gets the (thorny) stick if L & D have undertaken the prioritisation? Yes, you do!

You should suggest an objective prioritisation process, and work with the client side to ensure that it happens, but not undertake it.

Section 8 – Addressing Needs

This is about getting the right people into the position for the correct needs to be met, and then checking that they have in fact been met. Key aspects of this process should be:

  • The person requiring the performance need (or their manager) giving a clear explanation of the need.
  • The manager explaining why they cannot address this matter locally (through coaching, shadowing, etc.).
  • The manager showing clearly how by addressing this performance need, organisational performance will be improved.
  • Agreement from local senior management that this is a valid need.
  • The delegate creating an action plan at the conclusion of the intervention.
  • Within three months of the end of the intervention, sign off by the line manager that the person’s need has been met – and they can now do what they couldn’t do before.
  • Or re-submission of the need for a further intervention if the manager cannot give this sign off.

This can all be included in one process, and if you would like to see how, please let me know and I will send you further information.

By undertaking Sections 6 – 8, you will ensure that relevant needs at
organisational, team and individual levels are included.

Section 9 – Collaboration

In the past few years the world has seen the formation of a number of strategic alliances between passenger airlines. If you buy a car, there are many makes, but in reality there are only three or four producers in the world with each make falling under one of the larger umbrellas.

Who could you collaborate with to save on design time and maximise places on courses by sharing capabilities? Running programmes more regularly will benefit your organisation, it is easier to fill events to capacity with a larger pool of potential delegates and people will learn different ideas and skills from other organisations. If this works for you, you should include you organisations approach to collaboration within this section.

Section 10 – Design, Delivery and Evaluation

I would advocate a separate Design, Delivery and Evaluation Strategy – and for some organisations it will make more sense to have three separate Strategies covering each of these aspects. This section should make reference to their existence and where they can be located.

Section 11 – Sector / Organisation specific considerations

It may be that your organisation needs one or more specific sections – this is where to add them. An example could be a section on Diversity and Equality, where you might include:

  • A statement of commitment to diversity and equality.
  • The reasons for addressing this aspect separately.
  • How diversity training will be included in programmes.

Section 12 – Monitoring

For some of us, perhaps getting a strategy up and running has been a challenge, and now it is done it can be put to one side and other matters can be focussed on. If that’s the case, what was the point in doing it? If it is mapping out a course we see as being the right direction, we need to keep making sure that we are on track. It needs refreshing and renewing.

This is a short section to write, covering:

  • Who (or what meeting) will monitor activity against the Standards of Performance in Section 4?
  • How often will performance be reported on (quarterly suggested) and who to?
  • Who will review this Strategy?
  • How often will it be reviewed and updated (at least annually)?
  • Who (or what meeting) will the updated Strategy be presented to?

It takes longer to undertake. It entails considering and documenting:

  • If the organisation’s Statement of Values has changed, this document needs to reflect it (Section 1)
  • Have the strategic objectives changed, and so need updating? (Section 2)
  • Do the Guiding Principles require updating? (Section 3)
  • Bearing in mind the above amendments, do you need amended Performance Standards? If not, do the measurements of success need updating due to the current levels of performance? (Section 4)
  • Do the responsibilities need updating? (Section 5)
  • Sections 6 – 8 then need amending in light of all the above information.
  • Is there anyone else we could collaborate with to deliver a more effective service for the organisation? (Section 9)

And that’s it – Training for Performance Improvement (TPI) Strategy successfully completed!

Paul

Creating a Strategy (1) – the Foundation Stones

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

I am often asked for a template for developing a Training Strategy or Performance Improvement Strategy – which, based on the arguments in my last post, will be referred to as a Training for Performance Improvement (TPI) Strategy for the remainder of this post – perhaps I might be able to influence change!

Such a template can be very useful as a guide, but it should only be used as a guide. If taken too rigidly it will hinder your creative thinking or the adding of aspects that might be of particular importance to you and your organisation. I offer you this template with those words of caution.

There are 3 distinct parts within this Strategy template:

  • Part 1 – The Foundation Stones
  • Part 2 – The Standards and Responsibilities
  • Part 3 – The Supporting Processes

Within this post, I will cover what I see as the Foundation Stones for a beneficial Strategy. These are required – as the name suggests – in order to ensure a sound platform for the remainder of the Strategy.

Section 1 – Statement of Values

This section should include a statement on behalf of the organisation setting out its commitment to performance improvement / staff development / training.

If your organisation has a Board of Governors or similar, the statement should be agreeable to both the Board and the Senior Management Team. This is important in terms of unity and clarity, and so that you can gain organisational acceptance for your TPI Strategy.

If you have your own Vision, this can also be included within this section.

Section 2 – Strategic Objectives

Consider these questions:

  • What  are the long term objectives of your organisation?
  • What  are the core skills required within your sector?
  • What  are the likely influences on your organisation over the coming years  -you might want to undertake a PEST / PESTLE  analysis (consider adding as an appendix the key documents you have considered)?
  • What  are the national learning and development issues that are likely to impact on your organisation?

As a result of this Strategic Assessment, you may well come up with several specific objectives, or you may decide to use just one, such as, “To develop the skills and improve the performance of our managers and their team members”.

Do which works best for you, but remember, whatever objective(s) you do come up with need to long term (5 years) and also link into the organisation’s long term objectives – and the links need to be obvious.

Section 3 – Guiding Principles to Underpin the Strategy

This section can be particularly useful in less mature organisations where you are still seeking to embed effective development processes.

The sorts of principles that you might see benefit from incorporating could include:

  • The PDR / Appraisal process will be the effective link between personal development and organisational effectiveness
  • Learning and Development is a critical support function working to enable the organisation to deliver improved organisational performance (particularly useful to include if your unit’s title is ‘Training’ or ‘Learning and Development’)
  • The focus of activities will be on improving the performance of staff and the services we provide (the comments against the previous bullet point also apply here)
  • Staff will be encouraged and supported to undertake appropriate self-development activities
  • The content of programmes will be stimulating and challenging
  • Leadership skills and valuing diversity will be key threads throughout learning activities
  • Where possible, learning and development activities will be linked to nationally recognised qualifications
  • Monitoring of transference of skills to the workplace will take place in order to ascertain the value of learning and development activities

So those are the Foundation Stones – in the next post I will explain Part 2 – the Standards and Responsibilities for the TPI Strategy.

Paul

Time to take the road least travelled?

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

In my previous two posts, I have discussed the importance of a Vision. The Vision helps a company or team gain a shared view and understanding of what they want to achieve and how they want to be viewed.

If you are looking to create a Learning and Development (or Training) Strategy, you may have created your own Departmental Vision if your unit is large enough, or it may be that you have a company Vision which you use. This is a helpful starting point for your Strategy.

Here in England, just north of where I live and about 100 miles from Scotland, there is a road junction called “Scotch Corner”. Most people hardly notice it now, but in years gone by it was a hugely significant junction. Before getting to this point, the traveller needed to have planned their journey and decided whether they would be going up the east coast or west coast of Scotland. The decision had to be made a long time before reaching Scotland. Once they had decided which way to turn at Scotch Corner, it was expensive, time consuming and complicated to change course. The same is true of a strategy.

So before you go any further, why are you creating a strategy? The dictionary definition of a strategy is, “a long-term plan for success; a plan to achieve an advantage”. Nowhere does it suggest its definition is, “a paper exercise; the ticking of a box”. Sadly though, too many strategies are created for this second purpose – and such an approach can also become a millstone, or worse – a stick with which others can metaphorically beat you.

For a strategy to give you this long term plan and a competitive or organisational advantage, you need to put time, thought and energy into its formulation. It should enable you to clearly express where your function is heading and most importantly how it will support organisational performance, improvement and success. Once you have achieved this, you should be able to gain support and acceptance for your approach from your organisation’s senior management. This ‘sign off’ gives you further clarity, and can be very useful if you need to ‘challenge’ other parts of the organisation if for any reason they do not support your activities or seek to alter your direction.

So far I have referred to the document as a ‘Learning and Development’ or ‘Training’ Strategy, however, I would suggest that you really think hard about what you call it. Its title will set the tone for what you do and how you are seen. I have previously set down my thoughts on what can happen when a person is called a Trainer (“Sell your crunch, not your apples“), and how this can be unhelpful. As an aside, since writing that post, I have been on a course where the attendees were people who coach, train and develop others. The job title of one delegate was “Performance Improvement Consultant” Music to my ears! Having said that, the person worked at a group of hospitals in Orlando, Florida and so my concerns as to whether the title would be understood in the UK still exist.

Put yourself in the shoes of your senior operations manager – or similar – for a moment. Do they want a function that provides ‘Training’, ‘Learning’, ‘Development’, ‘Performance Improvement’, or something else? I see this as a continuum to which you could potentially add other words or phrases.

I’m pretty sure that the majority of senior operations managers would put themselves towards the right hand end of this continuum – they want performance improvement. That’s how they are measured, that’s how they demonstrate success, that’s what keeps the business competitive or the organisation successful.

Why then do so many people have ‘Training’ Strategies? Possibly because that’s the way they have always been done, or possible because of where the function sits within the organisation. Often this function is part of HR. Within the HR profession, ‘Training’ is still an all too popular generic title. If this function was moved to be part of the Performance Management arm of the business, would its primary purpose still be seen as Training? I think not.

Consequently, this Strategy is far more than a piece of paper. It will say what you are about, and how you are positioned within the organisation. It should make you think long and hard about what impact you intend to make. So before you even start to write it, think about these crucial questions.

Will you be having a ‘Training Strategy’ or a ‘Performance Improvement Strategy’? This is your ‘Scotch Corner’ moment.

Paul

Building the Perfect Vision

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

In my previous post, I outlined the components of a good quality Vision, together with examples of good and not so good offerings. In this post I will explain how to create a meaningful Vision.

For a Vision to be effective, not only does it need to meet the suggested criteria listed in the previous post, it also needs to be owned by the company or departmental staff, and both understood and valued by the customer base. The following process will enable you to achieve all this.

  1. Brainstorm or board-blast words and short phrases that describe what your organisation or department is to be about. This activity can be undertaken both internally and with customers, although the sessions should be run separately.
  2. Having undertaken this with one or more groups, look at all the words and phrases you have generated. You will see some themes and overlaps. Some words will have similar meanings. Group the words and phrases together where possible – using one colour for customer comments and another colour for staff comments.  This will give you an indication of which themes are numerically most important to the people you have consulted with, together with a check of the weighting from each of the two groups.
  3. Now prioritise your themes. Which are shared by both staff and customers? As the leader of the company or Department, which ones meet with your long term view? Which are most important to the success of your venture?
  4. Within each theme, is there a word that encapsulates, as far as possible, what the theme is about? If so, make a note of it. If not, is there a two-word phrase that sums it up? This step of the process is all about simplifying the theme and looking to take it forward as succinctly yet as accurately as possible.  You will never fit all the comments people have made into a sentence of a few words – so you will have to be prepared to accept inclusion by implication – and this is what you should be seeking to achieve with this step.
  5. Put your prioritised words together in a phrase. As I have mentioned previously, the phrase needs to be memorable, and as many people as possible need to be able to understand how their contribution has helped form and been included within the sentence.

If you get to this point, well done! It isn’t easy to get to this position, and it is time consuming – but it is well worthwhile.

The last time that I undertook this process was when I was leading a large Learning and Development function within an organisation. The Vision that I settled on was “Partners in Developing Performance”. This reflected the requirement to work with other parts of the organisation in an Adult and objective manner, together with the recognition that we existed to develop people, and that our Department needed to make a positive impact on organisational performance.

I found it very helpful in articulating what we were all about, and ensuring that all our activities fitted with this Vision or value. The most pleasing impact was when one of the trainers – on his own initiative – had delegate desk name plates (i.e. a folded card where the delegate wrote their name as a part of their introduction) printed with the Vision on. Proof that it was owned and valued by staff!

Furthermore, due to its positive impact, the HR Department adopted an amended version of it – “Partners in Managing our People”– for their own use.

So if it can be so effective, why don’t more organisations and departments do it? There are many potential reasons – here are some of them:

  • Looking for instant results – if that’s what you want, you probably will not invest the time in a Vision
  • Bureaucratic – it can be viewed as such where people don’t understand its value
  • Fear or embarrassment – it can be seen as a bit different if people haven’t been involved in such a process before
  • Inadequacy – some people tell themselves that they couldn’t lead such a process. Remember, there are facilitators who would be able to assist you with the process
  • Fatigue – there will be many other things on your plate, and it can be an easy one to push off the side.

But try it – clear these potential blockages and set out your Vision.  Be clear on where you and your team are going.

Once you have your Vision, you can develop your Mission – which will be your over-arching objective or overall aim. This could be your objective for where you will be in 5 years’ time. You can then work backwards setting objectives as to what needs to be in place or happen to get you to that point. Your path will have clarity for your staff and stakeholders.

Which takes me back to where this all started – the writing of a Strategy. The Vision can make this easier, and in my next post I will outline a template for creating a meaningful Learning and Development Strategy.

Paul

I have a Vision – do you?

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Recently I have received a surge in emails requesting assistance on writing Learning and Development Strategies. It seems like everyone is at it. It encourages me that so many people are keen to define their strategic goals, however, it does also concern me that often people may be doing it to tick a box – and the document is created, and then forgotten about.  For a strategy to work, it needs to become a living document, to move from the 2-dimensional to the 3-dimensional.

I believe that there is a key step that should take place before writing the strategy – a step that can make the difference between the resulting product being a living document and a paper exercise. But very few people or organisations undertake it.

It’s the creation of a Vision. The creation of a Vision can conjure up ideas, enable ownership of a shared dream of the future, motivate people and focus everyone’s thinking.  It can be undertaken by whole organisations, or key departments within organisations.

What is your company or Department’s Vision? If it has one, can you remember it? Do you have ownership of it? Does it motivate you?

Think of some of the Visions that other organisations have.  Two of the best ones that I am aware of are John Lewis’ “Never Knowingly Undersold” and Ikea’s “Affordable solutions for better living”. So what makes these so good?

Well, a Vision needs to be:

  • Achievable
  • Communicable
  • Memorable
  • Sustainable
  • Probably not longer than 7 words
  • Use terms that everyone can recognise, relate to
    and remember
  • Describe what you see
  • Inspirational

And it should avoid being:

  • An intention
  • Like an objective
  • Bureaucratic
  • Committee-speak
  • Measurable

Both my previous examples fit with these requirements, as does my personal favourite – FedEx’s “The world on time”.  Those four words give such clarity as to what FedEx wants to be, yet so simply and memorably.

But not all are this good. Nike’s, “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”, and Amazon’s, “To be earth’s most customer centric company”, are reasonable, but the use of the word ‘To’ at the start making them sound too much like objectives.

Moving down my leader board, we arrive at Virgin Atlantic’s, “The success of our three year strategy requires us to build on these foundations by focusing on the business and leisure markets and driving efficiency and effectiveness”. Memorable? Inspirational? I don’t think so.

And, in my opinion, the worst of all belongs to Heinz. Their 73-word offering is, “Our Vision, quite simply, is to be ‘The world’s premier food company, offering nutritious, superior tasting foods to people everywhere.’ Being the premier food company does not mean being the biggest but it does mean being the best in terms of consumer value, customer service, employee talent, and consistent and predictable growth. We are well on our way to realizing this Vision but there is more we must do to fully achieve it.”

If they had left it as the ‘quite simply’ part, then it would be good – but someone felt the need to, “Yes, but …” it, and the moment was lost. And with it went any inspirational, communicable or motivational qualities it may have had. But perhaps it’s more difficult when you need to include 57 varieties!

If your company or Department has a Vision, how good do you think it is? If it doesn’t have a Vision, would you benefit from having one? In my next post I will give suggestions as to how to create a FedEx quality Vision.

Paul