Tag Archives: development

Idea development

Thinking through and research notes on a new project idea:

Notes and mind maps on ideas for a new project

Why Learning & Development should be focused on wicked problems

Learning and development should be focused on solving wicked problems in organisation but too often, L&D appears to avoid engaging in these problems. Using Horst Rittel‘s ten criteria for wicked problems, here’s my argument for why learning and development should be about wicked problems:

  1. Wicked problems have no definitive formulation: performance issues in organisations will have many different causes – from skills deficits, process issues, equipment issues, investment issues, poor leadership, poor management, an individual, a policy, a combination of some or all of these etc. Each problem formulation and diagnosis should be unique
  2. It’s hard, maybe impossible, to measure or claim success with wicked problems: just because an intervention coincided with improvements does not necessarily mean you can demonstrate that it was the learning intervention that improved things. Just as causes are complex so is teasing out what works and why. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try or that being unable to make show the causation is a reason not to implement the intervention.
  3. strategically important learning and development rarely resolves an issue, it improves a situation: organisations perform better but never perfectly.
  4. significant learning interventions are learning events in themselves and you can’t know it all at the start, just what you’ll be learning next…..
  5. … and so there is likely to be more than a single diagnosis – you should have a number of hypotheses to test in different ways …
  6. … as capabilities, systems, processes, people, culture, strategy, etc are all interconnected and all play a part in what you are trying to do.
  7. Nothing is definitive – learning and development, like people and communities don’t conform to laws of natural sciences.
  8. As your learning and development intervention is implemented it will generate change in other aspects of the organisation so trial and error is both the key to success but is also more difficult to do.
  9. So problems do not repeat themselves – there is no “same old same old”.
  10. Learning and development professionals are responsible for the effectiveness of the learning interventions in the long and short-term.

Learning service as a service

I’ve been experimenting with the use of service design methods in Learning & Development programme planning. I’ve used some elements of service design/ design thinking, especially blueprinting for a few years but am now trying a more systematic use for programme design and evaluation. The process appears to work well with an increased focus on the complete journey of user experience through to learning transfer including the nature of the transfer we want to see and what needs to be done to ensure the learning and transfer happens in the reality of the actual organisational context. Its also good to see the creativity and concern for the learner that the processes support in the L&D professionals and line managers themselves. Its early days but the methods of service design do appear to support an increased common understanding between the L&D people and the operational management (I live in hope).

But then…. the standards operational management models have reared their ugly head. Learning as a service – quality assurance – better use ServQUAL then. And at this point there comes the real danger of a shift in focus from developing an excellent service via service design methods to satisficing user expectations to narrow the service quality gaps. A very frustrating experience all round. The question is how to overcome this tension while acknowledging expertise in operational management – I don’t know yet …