Relevance in the Network

In Become a meta L&D Manager (requires free registration), my colleagues Jay Cross & Clark Quinn advise that it’s time to take a broader look at learning in the organization:

“Your charter as head of L&D [learning & development] is to optimise learning throughout the organisation, not just in the pockets that once belonged to HR. This takes a broader perspective than what you deal with day-to-day. You’ve got to rise above the noise to see the underlying patterns and then optimise them.”

In the comments, Martine Parry adds to this topical article, saying that the ” … training role will become responsible for large deployments and for legal and governance issues – only.” This is the root of the change that we are facing in organizations today: relevance in the network. There are many silos of support functions in any large organization, each with their own culture and perspectives on business performance – HR; L&D; IT; KM; Marketing; Communications; et al. And of course there are also the individual business units as well as the key driver of revenue in many companies – Sales. If roles have to merge, who will win out, a business unit or a support function? It’s quite possible that the traditional training function will become marginalized.

History shows that significant changes in how we communicate result in significant changes in how we work. Many silos of support functions will not work in a network-centric organization as there’s too much redundancy, duplication of effort and slowness to react. It’s becoming obvious that only highly networked organizations are going to be successful. As another colleague, Jon Husband, puts it:

“The performance management schemes, grade levels in the organizations and compensation practices have yet to recognize how work gets done in networked environments and increasingly, in a networked world.”

Does it really matter that training or L&D will be marginalized? In the long run, I think not. We are seeing the merging of roles and functions as networks bypass command & control. That means that each departmental silo will lose some of its traditional power. What will emerge will have to be more effective for the networked organization. As a learning or workplace performance professional your choice is clear:

  1. Fight to ensure that your department wins the short-term internal political game of leading organizational learning; or
  2. Park your ego (and that of your tribe) to work with everyone in the organization to make it more effective in the long-term.

It’s obvious which choice I would recommend but #2 will be fraught with problems, such as being ostracized by your departmental colleagues and maybe even working yourself out of a job. However, if your organization doesn’t succeed in the long run, neither will your job.


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3 Responses to “Relevance in the Network”

  1. Virginia Yonkers

    Actually, my own research is finding that there are different power structures at play in developing the network. I currently am trying to decipher what exactly influences the different types of networks and network connections. Things such as stakeholders (inside and outside of the organization), deadlines, resources and/or the withholding of resources, logivity of the group, and the type of project work and tasks (i.e. high security, high level of expert input, routine work–such as annual report writing) all affect how the network functions and the power structure within the organization.


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