The Preface to T&D Systems View Is 21 Years Old – Has It Come Of Age?

From the Preface of T&D Systems View (2001)

Is This Book for You?

This book is for those who know that T&D means training & development. It is especially for those who are responsible for leading and managing T&D efforts within their enterprise.

It is for those who wish or need to improve their overall T&D processes to better serve their customers, their stakeholders, and the shareholders/owners of the enterprise.

This book presents a systems view of the T&D function: a view of all of the processes that exist, formally or not, in control or not, so that they may be assessed for their contribution to (or diminishment of) the effectiveness of the T&D efforts and expenditures.

This book is for you if you need an overall template and assessment questions for each of the many processes of the T&D function, for the purpose of identifying weaknesses of your current system.

I do not believe that each and every one of the many processes presented here needs to be formal and in control. They just need to get their jobs done with efficiency. If they are informal and not in control (from a statistical process control—SPC—viewpoint) but are effective, then leave them alone. If they are too informal, are out of control, and are causing significant problems, then fix them.

In the T&D Systems View, I subscribe to the notion of Learning by Design (LBD) not Learning by Chance (LBC).

If you manage or lead a T&D function, are interested in performance-based T&D interventions, are process oriented (or want to be), and want to improve your alignment with your enterprise’s leaders and their critical business issues, then this is the book for you.

If you have a process orientation and would like a business orientation that puts all things T&D through an “eyes of the shareholder” analysis—“what would I do if it were my money?”—then this book is for you.

If your resources are constrained, and they almost always are, then cherry-picking or targeting investments in T&D involves serious business decisions. Why invest in one target versus another? What are the ramifications to business operations, both current state and future state?

If you see the goal of the T&D system as improving human performance where human knowledge and skill deficits are impacting current process performance, or where these deficits will impact future process performance, then this book is for you.

At the conclusion of this book, you should have twice made a preliminary cut at assessing the processes of the T&D function and identifying which are the higher priority, high-payback “targets” for follow-on improvement efforts given the specifics of your situation.

The objective of T&D Systems View is to share a business view of the systems and processes for enterprise training and development and to facilitate your assessment of your system at the process level.

Why T&D Systems View?

The better the T&D processes work, the better it will be for the enterprise. However, T&D is expensive. Poorly targeted, poorly executed T&D can be a shareholder’s nightmare.

As process-oriented people, we certainly do not subscribe to the hip notions of “whatever, whenever, and however” when it comes to enterprise training and development. We like things to be organized and deliberate in response to the critical needs of the enterprise’s internal customers.

The competence of our enterprises is directly related to how our leaders manage and manipulate their assets, both human assets and environmental assets. And if everyone can really buy the same assets (the capital equipment and technologies and other environmental assets), then those who “work it best” will be the most competent and will generally win in any competition.

In my view, human competence is all about learning to manage and work with all of the human and environmental assets available, such as headcount and budget, facilities, buildings and grounds, data and information, materials and supplies, and equipment and tools, in order to get some job performance done—and get some business/enterprise goal accomplished. And that’s almost always to the overall good of a society that values, demands, and pays for such efficient enterprise accomplishments. That’s enterprise competence.

This work, T&D Systems View, focuses on the T&D aspect of “human competency,” which is a critical factor, but not the only factor, in enterprise process competence.

T&D Systems View presents a view of the many T&D systems and processes within the enterprise.

Despite my use of an older label, T&D, versus learning, I hope that T&D Systems View is not a typical, stale view, but rather a newfangled, proactive, hard-nosed, business-oriented view of the T&D profession, system, processes, department, and people. It’s a view that sees T&D as just one of many systems and processes that connect with many other process connection points within the enterprise, and often with many external connection points as well.

I don’t refer to T&D as “learning,” although many people do. (I will wait until the sales function changes their name to “buying,” and then I’ll consider it.)

I wish to view the T&D system as a supply-side entity, with a customer/stakeholder/
shareholder needs-based yardstick. T&D Systems View asks questions and demands answers from the perspective of a shareholder or an owner. It is their money, equity, investments, and future returns from T&D promises. T&D Systems View asks, “How and where would you invest this money if it were yours?” T&D Systems View asks questions and seeks answers from its customer chain, supplier chain, and regulator chain. They each have a stake in T&D’s success in meeting their needs.

T&D Systems View is a T&D system controlled by the leaders of the enterprise. This means that T&D is not done because it feels like it’s the right thing to do, as is often the case. It means that T&D is done because it’s the smart thing to do. It’s a business decision with a financial return. And, as importantly, it’s done at the insistence of the leaders and customers of T&D.

T&D Systems View will present a viewpoint that every T&D system has the processes we identify, whether formally recognized or not, and whether in tight control or not. The issue isn’t whether you do everything formally or not. It’s whether it’s working well enough or not.

The issue I intend to help you address exists due to the fact that most T&D processes evolved more or less independently from each other over time, as they became needed. Few T&D systems were designed as a greenfield, or startup, operation. Some T&D processes may need to continue their evolution in a continuous improvement mode. Some processes may need more of a revolution of discontinuous improvement to meet the critical business needs of their enterprise.

It just might be time to re-engineer your T&D system with a business purpose. Maybe T&D Systems View will provide you with the starting point for implementing your vision for business-based T&D in your enterprise.

Too many T&D organizations today are fad driven. Some buy or build fabulous “e” or Knowledge Management Systems, and jam them full of generic content. Many, in their search to be more “important” in their company, are leading the charge to become a learning organization (some are even changing their name from something like The ABC Training & Education Center to The ABC Company Learning Organization). Meanwhile, who’s watching the bottom-line impact of such decisions?

T&D Systems View seeks to avoid “learning for the sake of learning, not for the sake of the business.”

Many companies demand that employees and their managers account for “hours in T&D” as goals to be met. Many are starting company universities. Many companies are starting intranet systems with Web pages dedicated to electronically deploying information and T&D products.

These are big-ticket investments in infrastructure. And too many of them are being undertaken without an eye toward the bottom line: return on investment—the “economic value adds.”

They may be re-engineering their core T&D processes and adopting a (generic) competency-based approach to mass skills development and management—where everybody is then trained to become a time managing, active listening, diversity appreciating, team playing problem solver, even if their job doesn’t require it. This approach rarely considers or makes a financial return on the T&D investment. And that is unacceptable.

Enterprise management needs a set of methods, processes, and systems for making better human capital improvement decisions, including T&D investment decision-making with a rigor and participation equal to those processes used for capital and other major financial investment decisions.

If form ideally follows function, we really shouldn’t begin to resource the development of the T&D products and the T&D distribution channels, “e” (electronic) and “t” (traditional), until we know which business issues are being addressed and which specific target audiences need what specific content, via which specific delivery approach, to truly be effective.

Often, the new distribution channels we develop to deploy our future T&D, are probably safe choices. They are safe only if their mere existence doesn’t tempt us to keep them filled, just for the sake of keeping them filled. You really won’t know until you systematically determine which audiences to serve for which types of content.

Again, just because you can keep them filled doesn’t mean that you should. Ask a business owner. Would they invest their own money in it? Would you if it were your money?

T&D organizations need to be careful not to overload their new “e” distribution channels with too much content that is just nice-to-know information. Or that isn’t packaged appropriately for end user ease-of-use. Or that doesn’t really facilitate learning that is just-in-time and performance-based.

The various T&D distribution channels, “e” and non-“e,” should be deliberately loaded with performance-affecting T&D, not just filled with content. It’s not about the channel. It’s not even about the content. It’s about the performance. Performance is the end to a T&D means.

Far too many organizations talk about becoming a learning organization. They miss the point in their zeal to be hip. Learning is indeed important. But there is something far more important. Ask a business owner.

The goal is not to become a learning organization. The goal is to become a high-performing organization, which includes, as one of many goals, becoming a learning organization. When the goal is to become a high-performing organization, vis à vis a learning organization, learning is done for the sake of the business, not simply for the sake of learning.

Specific T&D products should be deployed in a targeted manner via select distribution channels to targeted audiences. Other T&D products should be distributed in a widespread manner for the general needs of the mass target audiences. The T&D content of these distribution channels needs to provide high-payback in terms of improved enterprise process performance for critical systems and process needs of the enterprise.

“Whatever/whenever/however” T&D has little promise of a return on investment or economic value add. And those are the goals of T&D: ROI and EVA®. Ask your business owner(s).

T&D Systems View can help you address those worthy enterprise goals in a systematic and process-oriented manner.

***** ***** *****

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