Do learning and development strategies have a part in business strategy?

Visual Courtesy: http://pt.slideshare.net/
Visual Courtesy: http://pt.slideshare.net/

Whilst most organizations have learning and development units the question I’m raising is:
Are organizations really focused on learning and developing the talent pool that they have?

In today’s business environment the competitive edge, for an organization, comes from its culture and its talent. The latter is at the core of success
an organization can achieve.

In the usual commercial organizations, where profitability is the end objective of all activities, learning is often lost in the daily rush of what needs to get done. Resulting in the organization losing sight of developing its critical asset—people.

Without planned development of its people an organization cannot expect to be successful and sustainable in the long run.

What triggered this post is this article:

Continual Learners And Learning Organizations: A Two Way Street Or
A Dead End

It has four simple ideas which I find simple yet oft forgotten in the hustle and bustle of daily work.  

Being stimulated from this article, in this post, I’m taking a look at how the education and professional development sector approaches learning and development in their business strategy.

Is there a lack of focus on learning and development of talent in the higher education and professional development sector?

After all academic institutions, by their very nature, are meant to have an environment focused on learning and development.  If this is true it would mean that such institutions would put talent and their own knowledge thought leadership front and center of their business strategy.  

Or is it that the environment is only created for the students the institutions
cater for?

Looking around one sees the necessity of the academic institutions to operate more and more as commercial entities in order to ensure financial sustainability. That, however, does not absolve the institution from losing focus on its talent and in turn on learning and development. Such a loss of focus would be disastrous as its impacts on the reputation of the institution.

Reputation is a key driver of business continuity for any academic institution.

Such reputation is built through strategically identified initiatives all of which should tie back to a central learning and development focused strategy impacting on the people of the institution and their output. By having clearly identified quality benchmarks of the initiatives the institution can ensure business continuity and commercial sustainability.

A clear focus such as this will lead to the institution developing a competitive edge and become an institution of choice by potential students, the industry it serves as well as the academia.

By investing in its people and its knowledge base strategically, organizations involved in the education and professional development sectors,  can see the positive impact of specific activities in terms of reputation and bottom-line.

 

 

Leadership provides stamina and energy to an organization to be sustainable

visual courtesy www.pinterest.com
visual courtesy http://www.pinterest.com

 

We all know the three key ingredients that go into making a healthy organization:

  1. Cash Flow—Liquidity is the life blood of any business. Having the necessary cash flow enables a business to invest and grow.
  2. Employee Engagement—Motivation leads to productivity & efficiency. Employees represent the  brand and their behaviour impacts on the output and on the business revenue and reputation. Employees are the heart of any business.
  3. Leadership— Leadership provides purpose and strategic clarity of vision of the business.

Whilst cash flow is the blood and employees are the heart, leadership acts as the vitamin for any business to give it the much-needed energy, immunity and growth.

As a business owner or a corporate executive we give  lot of attention to the first ingredient—Cash Flow. Yet we neglect the other two– employee engagement & leadership— and oft take these for granted. 

Without giving these two important areas the due attention they deserve how do we expect our businesses to be healthy?

  1. Make Leadership priority number 1.  The core of a healthy business starts with leadership. Providing the right leadership aids in getting the employees engaged and involved with the purpose of the organization.
  2. Employee engagement occurs when the employee sees a clearly defined benefit– Provide clarity of role and alignment of the functional role to the purpose of the organization. Thereby recognizing and appreciating the employee and aiding in developing effective engagement. 

Engaged employees are more productive and deliver a far better customer-experience. This results in a high cash flow for the business through sales, repeat sales and higher customer satisfaction.

So looking to grow your business?

The starting point is to study is not the new market opportunity or the pricing or the cost-benefit analysis. The first place is to look at the leadership of the organisation and evaluate if the leadership is:

  1. Being effective
  2. Having strategic clarity

These two factors are critical.

Leadership is the link to having engaged employees.

In any organisation you need to have engaged employees to generate growth and sustainability. Without the employees being engaged a business simply exists up until a point where the cash flow is severely affected resulting in the closure of the business.

The way to get employees engaged is to ensure that the leader is able to clearly articulate and align organisational goals with direct benefits that impact the employees. Answering the ‘what’s in it for me?’ question brings about an empathetic connect between the employee and the leader. That aids in motivating the employee to perform.

This is why leadership is vitamin for an organisation!

Leadership is the, all-pervasive and all-encompassing, element that provides a business with the required stamina and energy to be a sustainable brand.

Behaviour Impacts the Choices You Make

Visual Courtesy: The GOODVIBE.CO
Visual Courtesy: The GOODVIBE.CO
Often leaders are in a tough situation and faced with tough choices.

A key role of a leader is to make decisions. In other words exercise their choice based on evaluating all the facts available to them and factoring in the impact of that choice on the long-term strategy. Whilst many are able to have that line-of-sight often times there is a knee-jerk reaction.

This reaction comes about from the individual leader’s behaviour.  A leader’s daily habit is formed through the behaviour expressed. Unknowingly many a leader displays leadership traits that set the cultural tone through behaviour. If the leader is in survival mode—fear & flight—then choice comes across in behaviour as one that ensures self-preservation. What that means is that there is indecisiveness and inordinate delays on critical decisions. On the other hand if the leader has strong engagement, both at the C level and operational levels, then choice exercised would be expressed as a best-case scenario based one.

As leaders how can we ensure our behaviour matches what we say?

As the saying goes—lead by example. There’s no better way than to set an example, by doing what you want others to do. What this means is that one has to get one’s hands dirty but getting into execution and influencing the desired output. This sends a very strong message to all in terms of culture and expected behaviour.

This is more so important in the Asian context where employees behave as they see their bosses do.

As leaders how can we get the engagement?

Getting employee engagement is hard. Not impossible but hard. You can’t make all the people happy all the time. You can make some people happy some of the time. So it is with getting employees to be engaged.

As a leader it’s critical to have an open door relationship with your operational leadership team and actually practice it. If the operational leadership team has to always make an appointment to discuss an issue or an idea, then it’s not open door. On the contrary, the message communicated is that the leader of the organization is not interested.

The impact of such behaviour affects choices greatly.

Lack of regular interaction and access to the C suite leadership coupled with lack of ownership within the C suite, of critical organizational initiatives, leads to:

  • Lack of morale
  • Lowering of trust (in the leadership)
  • Questioning the time, energy & effort (spent) on critical initiatives

Ending in the organization losing the operational leaders and losing its way.

Is your organization showing any of these?

If yes, it’s time to have a very open, no-holds barred, heart-to-heart chat with the concerned leaders and to put the facts on the table for the leadership to imbibe, evaluate and choose wisely for the long-term benefit of the organization.

 

What Happens When Leadership Dies

Visual Courtesy: www.pininterest.com
Visual Courtesy: http://www.pininterest.com

This post was sparked by an excellent article on this subject by an expert
Moyra Mackie who I respect tremendously for her insights into leadership development. In her recent article—Where leadership goes to die—Fear and (self-loathing)in the C-suite– Moyra deftly links data to the impact of leadership failures and how it can be avoided.

Her article made me think of the importance and impact leadership has on an organization’s purpose—its’ very reason for being in existence– and its attitude in pursuing and delivering that purpose.

Today if any organization is not seriously evaluating its leadership and the effectiveness of that leadership then it’s simply fooling itself.

Strategy is as good as its execution—goes the saying.

But in developing an effective strategy listening and leading from the front are two key elements that are instrumental in creating a positive or
can-do attitude. It’s this kind of attitude that galvanise people, providing them with a cause, a bigger purpose over and above the revenue targets and cost efficiency that delivers results and, more importantly, create stories that are shared  all through the organizations’ eco-system and adds hugely to its reputation.

Do leaders really understand what leadership actually is?

In the course of my career in various industry sectors across Asia, I have noticed how leaders fail in their understanding of leadership due to some of the issues highlighted by Ms. Mackie in her article. From an organizational perspective such failure results in critical leadership gaps which leaves them paralyzed or, worse still, broken in the long-run without any warning.

The critical gaps are:

  1. Lack of strategic business understanding:

Arises from a self-denial behaviour, with regards to inability in understanding business purpose and needs beyond the P&L, and in enlisting necessary support. Resulting in creating a self-inflicted isolation and being dis-engaged.

  1. A survival not growth focus approach on projects:

Flowing from the isolated approach key projects are directed on a survival-mode manner i.e. cost-cutting and higher short-term profits at any cost and not from generating a planned effective growth in the long run.

  1. Lack of clarity and direction to the next level down:

A survival-mode approach results in the inability to engage, fruitfully, in explaining the long-term benefits and results in lack of direction.

  1. Inability to connect, from the heart, and engage rank and file:

Due to the inability in explaining the long-term benefits, stemming from a lack of understanding the strategic business purpose, such leaders are unable to be authentic and speak from the heart and lose out on engaging employees for the bigger purpose of the organization.

Whilst this may read depressingly it’s not a scenario that cannot be changed provided one is willing to make the change. Accept and acknowledging the help you, as a leader need. Be courageous to ask for that help from the team. This impact positively on the respect your team have for you and, in fact, builds respect as you are reaching out for their expertise and showing them the value you have for them.

Being vulnerable by asking for help will not reduce your leadership respect. On the contrary it will increase the same and have a positive rippling effect across the organization.

 

I’d love to know your story on leadership. Do share here.

Every moment of your business has a fresh beginning

Visual Courtesy: www.successimg.com
Visual Courtesy: http://www.successimg.com

Doing the same thing day in day out brings about routine. Whilst a routine is great in generating efficiency, the flip side is that it makes us lose lateral thinking or what I call joining the strategic dots.

From time to time it’s helpful to simply put a bit of emotional distance between the daily needs of the business and our functional role in order to get some
blue-sky thinking going.

What this does is that it helps generate the links in joining the dots between strategy and tactics to result.

As T.S; Elliot said,” Every moment is a fresh beginning”.

In our present day world of information overload, constant connectivity and erratic business and economic climate, the times can be quite overwhelming. More so the need to have some off or down-time to have clarity of thought and come back with a fresh beginning.

Whether we are running our own business or we are a corporate manager the commonality is ensuring success in our strategy and daily tactics in business.

In this process you need to continually review your operations strategically and refresh your business strategy.

Here’s 5 ways to give your business that fresh beginning.

  1. REVIEW: Undertake a simple review of how the business operations are performing against plans. Are the specific activities bringing the desired results or not?
  2. EXPLORE: The areas of operations that are not delivering results, look at process, strategy and tactics initiated. Is something missing? Would you do something differently? Explore other solutions that may not seem to be the norm, but probably could have significant impact in a longer term.
  3. NEGOTIATE: In any organization, often times, there is a conflict between the strategic direction and the necessary tactics required. Having reviewed and explored options that may be more effective, you would have to present a probable solution tactfully. You’d have to influence your senior team in order to ensure their compliance so as to be able to deliver on the solution.
  4. EXECUTE: A strategy is as good as its execution. Sometimes, the best plans fail due to bad execution.  So when executing a new solution, keep a close eye on the input and reactions and be adept and flexible enough to react and change as you and your team carry out the execution.
  5. WIN: Finally, get ready to win and enjoy the success that comes in. Throughout the process, it’s crucial that you keep a positive attitude that communicates confidence to your team and your clients/customers. Such positivity would rub off during negotiation and execution and bring you achievement of your targeted plans.

I’d be delighted to know how helpful you found this post for your work. Do share your comments and tips.

Can you see the elephant in the room?

Visual Courtesy: www.zazzle.com
Visual Courtesy: http://www.zazzle.com

My earlier post– Does Islamic finance have an economic and societal valuebrought about a query on how we can create change, within current organizations in the Islamic finance sector, in undertaking business activities where societal benefits are the primary focus.

The starting point for this is to acknowledge the need for change.

Given the rapid changes that have resulted from financial, economic and natural crises coupled with technology adoption and usage the environment within which a business operates has undergone significant changes. Using business tools that worked in the past will not give better or same results.  The regular world of business as one had known is no longer in play.

Visual Courtesy: A presentation by Carlos Marchi—VP Sales & Marketing at LinkActiv
Visual Courtesy: A presentation by Carlos Marchi—VP Sales & Marketing at LinkActiv

We have to realise and accept that the Islamic finance sector, like other industries, is being disrupted and without accepting the need to change, it would be next to impossible for businesses to be sustainable. Add to this the necessity of having a very strong understanding of the market or a business’s target group needs, with regards for the community to grow economically, and you have a scenario where approaching profitability through just the lens of increasing short-term dollar value will simply not cut it any more.

This brings us back to the query that came in—How can we create the change to review existing business practices and models in order to put profitability from societal benefits as the purpose of a business.

Here’s my 5-Steps-To-Sustainability Cycle:

5_Steps-To Sustainability Cycle
5_Steps-To Sustainability Cycle

What this model does is to help in showing the stakeholders two key views:

  1. The increase in profitability and sustainability of the business over a longer period of time vis-à-vis higher short-term gains.
  2. The impact, in terms of economic growth of connected businesses of its partners and vendors along with development t of users who make up the community in which the business operates.

These two views, when projected through the lens of the dollar-value, enable a strong business case to be discussed at the board level. From here it’s the level of strategic understanding and willingness to change, at the leadership level, that impact on the final decision.

Will we see the elephant in the room and address it?