Governance and Advisory Systems and Processes Align T&D with Business Strategy and Needs

In the CADDI spring ’99 Pursuing Performance newsletter (available in the Resources tab at, I looked at the concept of learning by design from a systems standpoint: the leadership, core, and support processes that must exist for T&D (ISD) to contribute to, not take from, the enterprise’s bottom line.

That article was one of many precursor-writings leading to the 2002 publication of my third book: T&D Systems View. I had begun writing this book back in the early 1990 in response to a colleague at ISPI who remarked in passing at a conference that “ISD was more than CAD” (Yes I knew that!).

Learning by Design is about collaboration between customers and suppliers to make informed, strategic decisions and about getting certain business situations in better control. It’s not about controlling everything, only those factors that are critical enough to the business and to the business of T&D to warrant keeping it in line.

The same is true for an HPT/improvement-oriented function (including ISD or not). As my primary focus is performance-based T&D, we will continue with ISD/T&D as our focus in this Blog version of this article. HPT is Human Performance Technology also known as Human Performance Improvement in some quarters.

Learning by Design is about serious training and development operations and about the business making serious T&D decisions in as rigorous a manner as all other critical business decisions are made, such as capital improvements.

Learning by Design requires understanding the interrelationships between all the piece parts. The clockface model was intended to create a device to facilitate discussions regarding the component elements involved in an ISSUE (problem and/or opportunity). More on that in a future Blog posting.

My T&D Systems View model consists of 12 interdependent sub-systems and their processes (47 interrelated processes). Some of these are found within the classic views of T&D organizations; others, like marketing and communications, are not always thought of as T&D systems components. Each plays an important role in making the overall T&D system effective.

The graphic below “converts” my clockface model to the 3 level L-C-S framework used in my other books and writings…

The following graphics are mainly from an Encore presentation at ISPI in 2003. In 2002 it had been rated as one of the top 10 sessions out of over 250 sessions that year.

One size seldom fits all….and “Aligning to the Voice of the Customer at 3 Levels” is no exception…in fact there may be more or fewer levels to align to depending on the scope/complexity of YOUR SITUATION.

BTW – The “Performance Context” is something I always use prior to my stated learning objectives. It is intended to ensure that the Learners/PERFORMERS can see that the learning objectives are “not made up from thin air” (too often the case) and that they and the content are aligned to our understanding of “ideal performance” – and as my methods get all of that from an analysis of Master Performers who have proven their Performance Competence to the Project Steering Team who handpicked them for this ISD engagement – I am always comfortable that the design and performance orientation are “spot on.”

The 3 levels of the model…for your adoption or adaptation are:

The example graphic of these three levels in “one scenerio” follows…

In this post, we’re going to look closely at one of the mechanisms used for the 12 o’clock position and try to make sense out of the Governance and Advisory Systems and Processes. Let’s start with the words we used to describe these systems…

Governance and Advisory Systems and Processes are the central, driving force behind the strategies for business-based T&D. These systems organize key stakeholders of the enterprise and formalize the channels of communication. They provide the forum for T&D’s internal marketplace customers to provide advice, and give the organization’s executive-level leadership governing power over T&D strategies, tactics, and resource allocations.

If you’re like many of us in ISD/T&D, figuring out what needs to be developed and deployed is typically a decision for the T&D department to make. But you may have run into a downside lately: many different customers have been coming to you with multiple (and conflicting) priorities, and you don’t have enough staff to meet the expectations. You also may not have the clout or support to go to the big bosses and make a legitimate case for more ISD heads and budget.

Today, more and more companies—led by a new breed of ISD professional—are replacing this learning by chance approach to T&D decision-making with a systematically thought-through system that collaboratively designs value into the organization’s learning activities and returns from the investments. Where the ISD professional engages key stakeholders in the key decision-making processes, appropriate T&D development efforts are linked to specific knowledge and skills that have been systematically derived as being required for successful performance, not just nice-to-know topics and learning games off the top of someone’s head.

Training resource allocation decisions should always be based on improving the corporation’s bottom line. Resource decisions can become “no-brainers”—if that favorite presentation skills workshop isn’t working, its maintenance effort should get shelved for the higher gap T&D priorities that will return their weight in gold. Where should training dollars be spent: on developing 15 new salespeople to sell to emerging Pacific Rim markets ($50 billion in new business is up for grabs) or on that new course on feel good interpersonal communications for the entire payroll of 32,000? If you were the single shareholder, where would you invest?

The power behind learning by design is the structure that governs the T&D decision-making processes. It begins in the Governance and Advisory Systems and Processes. While not always formal (more on that later) the system consists of three components, the first two of which are permanent structures (for a formal approach) and/or relationships (for an informal approach or both).

A Governance Board, typically composed of executives of the enterprise, sanctions the overall T&D approach and allocates resources based on business needs and strategies and advice of the next groups. Advisory Councils are appointed by members of the Governance Board.

The Advisory Councils represent their own domains (engineering, sales, marketing, for example), provide advice to the Governance Board as it decides where to expend the limited resources allocated to T&D, and then steer T&D efforts within their areas of interest after resourcing.

The third component is temporary, only existing for the duration of the project’s need. These are the teams temporarily put in place to support (in EPPIC’s ISD methodology-set) PACT Processes for T&D. They may include Project Steering Teams, Analysis Teams, Design Teams, and any other support teams that a Curriculum Architecture Design (CAD), Modular Curriculum Development (MCD), or Instructional Activity Development (IAD) project requires. They are formed as part of a PACT Project, do their work, and disband once the project is complete. Project Steering Team members are appointed by the Advisory Council who, in turn, handpick all other project-related team members.

The Governance System and Processes
The Governance System and Processes ensure communications with the executives of the enterprise for the purpose of directing and resourcing the T&D systems and project efforts. Their focus is usually not on the “low-hanging fruit” with its mass appeal. Nor is their bias to fill empty classroom seats or online sites with employees who need a place to sit (we call this “butts in seats,” and “butts on sites” as both are only measure of the lowest of the low-hanging fruit metric).

The only way to ensure that the T&D system is addressing the business-critical and highly important, high-payoff T&D is to systematically engage the leaders of the enterprise to double-check the findings of the Advisory Councils who provide investment recommendations to them.

It builds confidence that T&D expenditures are I’s with plenty of R’s to follow (as in ROI). Ideally, the Governance Board includes at least a few of the most senior executives of a company. These are the folks who understand the strategic direction of the business. When they make T&D decisions, they base them on how T&D can help align the people-resources with what needs to be done. This board doesn’t try to use T&D to make up for bad organization structures, poor communication, bad processes, or any other quality-impacting element except for the knowledge and skills that keep people from performing at optimal levels.

A formal Governance Board may typically meet twice a year (depending on the volatility of their business situation. The first meeting is in sync with the enterprise budget cycle. The second, six months after, is used to review and make any midcourse corrections.

Members rotate on and off but still represent the key business functions or processes. An informal approach is to meet more casually to get the same input. That less formal approach will work if your supplier-customer situation is not very complex.

The Advisory System and Processes
The formal Advisory System and Processes is also for communications. It would include a set of committees or councils immediately below the resource allocation, decision-making Governance Board. Think of them as “communities of practice” from the knowledge management world. Advisory Councils look out for the more parochial T&D needs of individual functions and processes (processes owned by their functions) of the company. They could also be organized differently depending on the nature of the enterprise.

How these councils are structured and the number of them depends, largely, on the organization and how it operates. Ideally, they should represent functions and disciplines and cover the leadership, core, and support business processes, depending on where the critical business issues exist. Don’t form groups when they aren’t dead center in the priority targets.

The formal Advisory Councils’ meetings occur before the Governance Board meetings and are held at least twice a year. If approached informally, the functional leaders should be met with prior to meetings with enterprise leadership so that you have the “needs input” to set final priorities established.

Temporary Project Support Teams
EPPIC’s ISD projects almost always use a team approach to producing/acquiring T&D. We don’t advocate teams just for the sake of including people so they’ll “feel good” about the process, but because the critical T&D needs of the organization are best addressed when the right people are involved in the right manner at the right time in the analysis, design, development, and/or decision-making needed in the CAD, MCD, and IAD methodologies. Membership in the temporary support teams is determined by the specific criteria and plans for the particular ISD project. Project Steering Teams are different from Analysis or Design Teams.

The key here is that the most valuable contributors to these temporary teams will be the busiest ones in the organization and getting them is difficult, unless they are appointed by leaders in their functions/disciplines. And then, their time must be used judiciously. It’s always easier to obtain their help when they know that theirs is a temporary assignment with start and end points.

DIY Assessments
You can use the next two graphics for your own assessment. Use the first graphic for Voice of the Customer data, and the second garphic for Voice of the Supplier data.

Two More Examples of the T&D Governance & Advisory Structure

Besides the free PDF of the book: T&D Systems View I have many other resources on my web site.

The Governance and Advisory Systems and Processes are the glue that hold a high-impact T&D “system” together and get it aligned. They provide the cross-organization knowledge that identifies real business/performance needs; they prioritize these needs and sanction which projects do and do not get resourced from among all the training needs that may exist.

I believe that the more complex the enterprise “customers” for T&D (or that the ISD/HPT products and services) are, and the more complex the T&D function “suppliers” are, the more formal your approach should be to getting these critical communications channels in place and operating efficiently and effectively.

It is EPPIC’s preferred approach for facilitating the Voice of the Customer (VOC) as well as the Voice of the Supplier (VOS) and getting communications clarity leading to smarter business decisions being made quickly, to the benefit of all. I believe it fits and serves HPT functions as well as it does T&D/Learning/Knowledge Management (ISD) functions.

PACT Processes, Curriculum Architecture Design, Modular Curriculum Development, and Instructional Activity Development are service marks of EPPIC, Inc.

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