The risky quadrant

Donald Taylor asks where your learning & development (training) department resides.

  1. Are you unacknowledged prophets, with a manager or executive who understands that you need to change, but the organization lags behind?
  2. Are you facing comfortable extinction, like the once dominant but now bankrupt Kodak?
  3. Or are you in the training ghetto, disconnected from the business and unable to be part of any change?

training extinctionThe reality today is that risky leadership is needed. As Don notes:

If both the department and the organisation are changing fast, this is a great opportunity. We can invest in new procedures and systems, build our skills and experiment with different ways of working with the business, and the business – because it is also changing fast and open to new ideas – will respond. It’s in this quadrant that we find really progressive L&D teams that are making an impact. While they are undoubtedly leaders, this quadrant is also risky, because that’s the nature of change.

Unacknowledged Prophets: If you are in this quadrant I would advise you to bide your time, build up your skills, create alliances, and wait for opportunities. As Stephen Berlin Johnson says, “Chance favours the connected mind.” Get collaborative, cooperative & connected. Louis Pasteur said that “Chance favours the prepared mind“. Be prepared.

Comfortable Extinction: This is a difficult quadrant because there is no understanding of the need for change. Everything is just fine. If you are the only person in your organization without rose coloured glasses, I would try to become a lone unacknowledged prophet, preparing for the inevitable crisis. If nobody sees it, then it would be best to let the training department drift into obscurity so that others can take the lead in promoting cooperation, collaboration and knowledge sharing. Sometimes it’s best to let natural selection do its thing.

Training Ghetto: Getting out of the basement and becoming relevant may take some time, which departments in this quadrant may not have. I would suggest first moving from training delivery to performance improvement. Get someone (yourself?) skilled at performance consulting. Forget about social learning, for the time being, and focus on performance support tools and job aids. Become useful to the business by bringing practical tools that can be used right away.

So how will you get to the risky quadrant?

6 Responses to “The risky quadrant”

  1. Mark Britz

    I find that although risky org level leadership may be difficult to find it may be easier to find it at a level down. Some departments/divisions have risk-taking leaders and progressive L&D needs to find them and support them. Dare I say exploit them. Mostly I believe risky leaders (in this respect) are made not born. Working at the individual and department level to make and show a transformation can serve to accelerate the change that’s needed across the org. Act local, think global. 🙂

  2. urbie

    Dunno about quadrants. I think we’re in the bulls-eye: much is needed, management isn’t on board and there’s no money to implement.

  3. Jon Husband

    I wonder what might happen if an organization got rid of its L & D department and then took half of the savings that change generated, spread it amongst its employees as annual ‘learning bonus’ in return for a personal assessment and learning plan that allowed any individual to engage in whatever configuration of formal and informal learning the individual decided was best for themselves and their needs to learn (with the proviso that the minimum expectation is what (I think) is often termed ‘fully-proficient” at the work required.

    Necessary formal learning (on new procedures, tools, legislation, etc.) would be identified and planned for by the individual in combination with HR and line management ?

  4. Don Taylor

    Hi Harold – thanks for the thinking and the reference. I have to say that I’m rather taken with Jon’s question. I’m not sure that I think departments should be scrapped entirely, but there’s much to be said for considering it as a thought experiment and considering where L&D does add value and where it doesn’t.


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