Tactics, Strategy & Humanity

The opening session at the CSTD Knowledge Exchange in Toronto this week was by Dana Gaines Robinson on the subject of Strategic Business Partnering. This is a new term for me and at the end of the session my impression was that SBP is a new buzz-word for human performance technology, but with an emphasis on strategy. The words strategy and tactics were liberally sprinkled through her session.

This  reminded me of my +20 years in the military when strategy and tactics were my main work disciplines and got me to wondering why many in the learning field use military terms to describe their work. Gaines Robinson used another term that did not sit well with me – it is that one should “own the client relationship”. When I think of a relationship, the last thing that comes to mind is ownership. Does this kind of terminology frame the discussion in a certain way? Does it influence how we think about our profession? Anyway, it was good for me to listen to a presentation that raised these issues.

The strategic, or high level, theme was a thread throughout the conference. Larry Murphy, an attendee and past colleague, described our field as having two kinds of people, forest people and tree people. Some can see the forest and some have to focus on each individual tree. In Strategic Business Partnering I think that we’re focusing on too small of a forest. In SBP, the performance consultant is supposed to partner with the client and look at the next 1-5 years from the client’s perspective.

I prefer Roger Kaufman’s organisational elements model where he urges us to look at the Mega (societal) the Macro (organisational) and Micro (individual & group) levels in strategic planning. A focus on the Mega means taking an ethical, moral and value-based stand. This is the really big picture, not just the business microcosm. A Mega perspective to me means that you don’t try to maximize value for your clients’ profits if they are acting like Enron execs. This thought stayed in my mind through the day, but by Tuesday evening there were some answers, and more questions.

performance analysis process mega and macro

Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, presented the post-dinner speech. In his articulate and engaging way he laid out the enormous humanitarian disaster that is attacking 70 million people today. He described in case after case the spread of the disease and its effects, especially on women. After moving many in the audience to tears, Mr Lewis described what we could do. With his global  vision, he proposed that individuals and groups of learning professionals in Canada could go to Africa and help to retrain a population that has almost no teachers or trainers.

The need is great and even one person training a small group on basic skills, that we take for granted, would have an impact. When the head of a household is only 8 years old (because all of the adults are dead) there are a lot of skills and knowledge that he or she will need to succeed in life. The suggestion was that the training & development community here could start a real knowledge transfer to Africa.

The next morning, the CSTD board created a committee to begin a process of working with the Stephen Lewis Foundation in order to determine how CSTD can help an orphaned generation in Africa to learn essential skills. Stephen Lewis has shown how the strategic and the tactical levels can be aligned, but within a much larger humanitarian (mega) vision. More information on this initiative will be made available on the CSTD website.

3 Responses to “Tactics, Strategy & Humanity”

  1. Stephan List

    Using military termsHi Harold, I think the military metaphor is very attractive for managers. No other organization beside the military has the capability of reducing complexity in this way. It’s the illusion that things could be predictable and easy to manage. An illusion of course, even for the armed forces, we saw that during many wars and clashes. CU Stephan List

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