T&D: Centralized or Decentralized Learning Enablement?

What Are You Promoting?

There are Pros and Cons to Centralized and Decentralized Learning Enablement. Back to that in a minute.

Learning is required to ensure Performance Competence: the Ability to Perform Tasks to Produce Outputs to Stakeholder Requirements.

People have to LEARN – to be Performance Competent – unless they had enough of the right Prior Knowledge /Skills from Education and/or Experience coming into the job.


IMO too many champion – what I will refer to as the “Centralization of Learning Enablement” (CoLE) – where that organizational entity typically known as L&D, and in the past and maybe coming back, as T&D – owns the who, what, why, when, where and how of Learning.

I think that is backwards. They should not own it all.


CoLE type thinking is where that one organizational entity known as T&D/L&D, and not each organizational entity, acts as if they alone are responsible for determining not only what needs to be learned by whom, when and where, but also how it is to be learned.

CoLE type thinking is where they – L&D/T&D own all aspects of enabling what is (unfortunately IMO) known as 70-20-10.

You see it when they write about 70-20-10 – which I usually Flip It to 10-20-70 – where one is provided Most 10 Before Most 20 Before Most 70.

Who Owns the 10?

10 – of course, is the Formal Learning via courses/ workshops/ etc.

But if Performance Support (a.k.a.: Guidance or Job Aids) is built formally and deployed or made accessible – if that Formal too – is it a 10 or a 70? That seems to be a “variant” in the explanations across the L&D/T&D landscape.

L&D/T&D as suppliers to their customers may build or buy it – but do they own it?

Who Owns the 20?

20 – of course, is the Informal Learning via asking others.

Or is it Formal if structured – as with Structured Interview Guides – that may provided to new people as Performance Support (a.k.a.: Guidance or Job Aids) is built formally and deployed or made accessible – on purpose?

Or is it only 20 if it is happenstance, on-demand with no prep work done in advance – because no one thought to anticipate it being on-demand?

Does it have to be provided by T&D/L&D – or can some department create their own Structured Interview Guides (of varying levels of structure and detail) without the support of L&D/T&D?

Who Owns the 70?

70 – of course, is the Informal Learning that happens via Trial & Error – learning by doing.

Or learning by doing after watching some YouTube Video that wasn’t created for your specific purpose and context – such as setting up an Excel Spreadsheet – or developing a Marketing Strategy for Taking an Existing Product into a New Market?

Some suggest that providing Performance Support is also 70 – where that was created for a specific purpose and context.

It’s quite frankly – all over the map.

Who Owns Needs Assessment?

T&D/L&D? Or are they simply the Internal Supplier to a Customer Request?

Could the Customer do one without L&D/T&D?

Who Prioritizes the Gaps for Resourcing a TNA?

T&D/L&D? Or do their Customer get to decide and target or forego a TNA?

Who Owns Training Needs Analysis – TNA?

T&D/L&D? Or are they simply the Internal Supplier to a Customer Request?

Could the Customer do one without L&D/T&D?

Who Owns Prioritizing & Resourcing the Training Gaps – After Deciding The Solution Is a 10 or 20 or 70 or a Blend?

Is it T&D/L&D?

Or is it their Customers?

If it is their Customers – and not L&D/T&D – then why does L&D/T&D act and talk as if it is theirs to decide? Why focus on 70-20-10 or 10-20-70?

Why not provide any 10 when requested?

Why not provide support for any 20 when requested? Or let the Customers – the departments and functions – decide who to point new people to and if that should be supported by a little formality – a little structure – a little formal Guidance?

Why not provide support for any 70 when requested? Or let the Customers – the departments and functions – decide who to point new people to – or not – and if that should be supported by a little formality – a little structure – a little formal Guidance?

And Isn’t That How It Was Before We Confused Everyone By Saying Learning When We Meant Job Aids or Training?

Which is to confuse the Ends with a Means.

Job Aids and Training are both Formal – regardless of whether the Customer or the Supplier builds them.

Relying on Happenstance or relying on Serendipity – is best when there is little Risk or Reward at stake. When errors and poor performance are quite tolerable. When they are No Big Deal – as the saying goes.


CoLE Type Thinking

CoLE type thinking is reflected in management’s seeming abdication of the responsibility to own it – Performance Competence that is. And their abdication for coaching and mentoring their own people.

“Ship ’em to training” is now blended with “Ship them some Training” – or Learning, if you prefer.

Functional and Departmental management seems to no longer think it is their responsibility to understand their own Processes, and the required enablers of those Processes.

They must believe that they can simply rely on their ERP systems and their LMS systems to make it happen – depending on some technical weenies to decide what’s necessary and other technical weenies to load the provisioning systems up – and then have something to point to, some convenient scapegoat to blame, when it all just doesn’t work out, actual to plan that is.

Too many in L&D/T&D encourage this. “Move over boss, we’ll take it from here.” And then they load their provisioning system (LMS) up with loads of content, questionable content IMO, content with Face Validity but lacking Authentic Context Validity.

And then they count, the Modern equivalent of butts in seats, butts on sites. And all sorts of tangential data. “Lies, damn lies, and statistics” comes to mind.

Who Is To Blame and How To Remedy the Situation?

Replace that with: what’s the cost of the problem and what’s the value for remedying it?

The blame is the move toward Centralization of Learning Enablement. The Abdication, if you will.

The solution IMO is somewhere midway between Centralization and Decentralization. A blend, if you will.

Management Development needs to be re-tuned to teach managers how to work with their people, who are closest to the Performance Competence requirements and know them best and what the Current State Gaps are and what They are Worth – to self-focus on addressing what they as a unit are responsible for – performance-wise.

Yeah – call in L&D/T&D for assistance in Training Needs Analysis after you have conducted your own Performance Competence Assessment and pinpointed your own gaps and determined what the root causes are and the cost for leaving them as is. Using, of course, your existing business metrics to guide your focus.

If it’s broken – and the ROI makes it worth it – address it using a proven Problem Solving approach (from Quality or Engineering or some variant of HPT – Human Performance Technology – that looks beyond just the human variable). And don’t solve a $100k problem with a $200k solution-set.

If nothing is broken – but there is still an worthy ROI for getting even better – decide where Continuous or Discontinuous Improvement – or some variant of Appreciative Inquiry from Quality or Engineering or some variant of HPT – Human Performance Technology – that looks beyond just the human variable) to help you. And again, don’t address a $100k opportunity with a $200k solution-set.

The 10-20-70 Address the Human Variables of Awareness/ Knowledge/ Skills

A lack of K/S, if one were to believe the late W. Edwards Deming, is only a subset of the 6% of the time when Performance Problems are caused by The System. There are other Human Variables – per my adaptation of The Ishikawa Diagram below.


The Pros & Cons of Centralization and Decentralization

Just a few…

Pros of Centralization

  • Increased sharing of Content for greater efficiency and establishing a common language and imagery for greater shared understanding and better communications and coordination
  • The greatest Total ROI is possible

Cons of Centralization

  • Some function’s/department’s number 1 priority may be too low on the list to ever be addressed and their performance will suffer for it
  • Managers may then turn to other priorities and not manage their total set of assets to the best of their abilities – and have someone else to blame for people’s performance shortcomings

Pros of Decentralization

  • Everyone addresses their own prioritized needs as they see fir
  • Managers actually have to manage all of the assets within their realm

Cons of Decentralization

  • The overall ROI is diluted by spending resources on efforts with a lessor return elsewhere
  • Uncommon language and imagery may cause confusion when communication and cooperating across organizational boundaries

There are, of course, ways to mitigate the Cons and achieve the Pros – in a blended approach.

Quit Enabling Abdication

Abdication of ownership – of knowing what’s what, and then addressing the real root causes – to specialty functions such as T&D and/or Quality and/or HR, is a systemic issue.

When managers don’t have to understand their organizations as well as they would, should they need to attend to the process performance gaps.

Willingly or inadvertently promoting the CoLE – the Centralization of Learning Enablement – by L&D/T&D – is to enable Abdication by those managers. Although – some may not go along with it (which would be a good thing IMO).

Getting all departments and functions to a greater state of self-reliance, should be a goal of L&D/T&D – to be achieved by the management of those departments and functions – via Training of those departments’ and functions’ managers. And their own 20 and 70.

Helping your Enterprise get to some blend between a Centralized and Decentralized State, where ownership for Targeting Needs Assessment and TNAs is the Customer’s – and meeting the needs with 10 – and 20 Support and 70 Support –  with authentic solutions – is owned by the Supplier in conjunction with those Customer’s decisions.

You don’t really want to own it all do you?

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