[Sunset outside our function room in Mumbai]
Just completed a workshop in the Trident Hotel in Mumbaiâ€¦Â Â I only realised that this was one of the hotels where the 2008 terrorist attack took place.Â Â Being in the hotel myself, I cannot help imagine how it was like when such tagic incident happenedâ€¦..Â Â Life is so unpredictableâ€¦
I was chatting with my co-facilitator (a â€˜walking encyclopaediaâ€™ on people and organisation development) on running learning and development functions.Â Â I like his critics on generic internal corporate training programs â€“ those not driven by a specific business problem and not owned by a specific business sponsor.Â Â Â The comment is basically that problem arises when a program takes up a life of its own.Â Â It is so true.Â Â I can relate to that.
What does it mean when a program takes up a life of its own?Â Â It happens when someoneâ€™s job depends on the program existence, when people consciously or unconsciously make sure it continues to exist (rather irrespective how the frontline business need changes), etc.Â Â Then, the â€˜productâ€™ becomes not sharply driven and shaped by the business need.Â Â Instead, what happens is that people try to â€˜alignâ€™ the â€˜productâ€™ to the business need.Â Â Â Â It will especially be the case when a company has rather strong L&D function which can â€˜protectâ€™ the â€˜productâ€™.
What is then the problem?Â Â Â The program will run a higher risk of losing touch on reality.Â Â Â More importantly, it becomes difficult to evaluate the program since it is not driven by a specific business need / problem.Â Â And it is particularly difficult for â€˜soft topicâ€™ like Leadership.Â Â Without measurement, it becomes difficult to improve it.
Despite the above, it is common to have generic leadership development program in especially big companies.Â Â Â Why?Â Â Â Â For simple economies of scale and standardization consideration, it makes more sense to have a generic program rather than different leadership development programs in different business units.Â Â Â And it helps out networking across the organisation.
How to reconcile the dilemma?Â Â Â I think it should be about Action Learning.Â Â Â It can be a company-wise program connecting people from different part of the organisation.Â Â Yet, as the projects in the program are real problems and sponsored by specific senior leaders, the â€˜productâ€™ (projects) within the â€˜productâ€™ (program) is driven by business need.
The challenge is then to have skillful facilitators / coaches who can intervene timely and skillfully during the projects with appropriate skills / knowledge / attitude.Â Â They need to be facilitative yet possess vast collection of â€˜contentâ€™.Â Â They have to work with fluid program design and have reasonably good business sense.Â Â As far as I know, it is difficult to find them in Mainland China and Hong Kong, and even Asia.
What do you think?