Resilience and HR

Is your Learning and Development function doing enough?

David Griffiths
Started by David Griffiths on
21 Feb 2013 at 12:29
Founder, K3-Cubed LtD
Know-how: Business Development
Learning & Dev

I cannot stress the importance of the Learning and Development function enough when considering the characteristics of complexity, the need to ‘Sense-Probe-Reflect-Respond’ (a synthesis of David Snowden’s ‘probe-sense-respond’ model and Kolb’s experiential learning cycle from adult learning theory) and the development of organisational resilience.

Simply put, complex management environments have four main characteristics:  flux (ambiguity)/connectedness/interdependence/diversity.  These management environments bring with them the need for problem-solving (see my previous post for more on this), which means the development and empowerment of human resources at the interface of the business and the environment.  This naturally leads to the development of knowledge, skills and behaviours, particular competencies, around the areas of critical thinking, problem-solving, communication for influence, networking etc.  The problem?  How many organisations have a Learning/Training and Development function that is prepared for this?

Too many organisations rely on ‘traditional’ (pedagogical) tried and tested’ methods of training delivery (whether compliance-led or not) that fail to meet the needs of today’s organisations (or the needs of adults – andragogy (adult learning) being distinctly different from pedagogy).  Why?  Quite simply, they fail to meet the needs of adult learners in the context of complex management environments.  This is compounded by the fact that too many learning/training interventions are delivered without the consideration of, why, what and how:  e.g.  why is this important?  What is driving the need for an intervention?  What does the participant need to understand coming into the training session?  How do we best deliver the course to meet the needs of the organisation and the individual? Underpinning this can the assumption that all training is the same.  It isn’t!  There is tendency for organisations to focus on content without consideration for the audience or the delivery method.  For example, there is still a tendency to lean towards classroom chalk-and-talk delivery methods that fail to engage adult learners and have minimal influence over improved results, impact or return in the workplace.

Why?  because they are not designed for adult learners who operate in complex management environments.

Adult learners need to know the ‘why’ (the rationale) behind learning/training interventions.  Adults are self-directed, they possess the self-concept of responsibility and resist scenarios where somebody else forces their will upon them.  Adults possess a rich and diverse depth of experiences that they bring to the learning environment.  Adults link learning to an immediacy of application, they want to link the subject matter to their role in life and/or the workplace.  Also, there is a tendency in organisational training/learning environments to conform to a norm associated with tightly coupled relationships, which lacks coherence when juxtaposed against complexity and problem-solving, which requires empowerment and ‘safe-to-fail’ experimentation (take a look at our blog on adult learning, tight coupling and innovation for more on this discussion).

Complex management environments require training/learning solutions that replicate real life.  Environments that allow learners to understand what they are about to experience and why.  That allow participants to immediately apply newly acquired/modelled knowledge, skills and behaviours in an environment that they feel emotionally attached to, where decision matter and carry consequences, but, ultimately, where it is safe to fail.

This has driven us to develop ‘Operation Punctuated Equilibrium‘ (the focus of our discussion with the European Training Foundation), a real-time immersion simulation (designed in collaboration with an active Chief Inspector from a UK police force) that looks to develop key competencies that contribute to the development of organisational resilience (take a look and let us know what you think).

To help organisations reflect on their current provision and the effectiveness of/implications for their Learning and Development function, we use a questionnaire developed by Knowles (2005) that we have modified under free license.  Take a look at the L+D for resilience questionnaire and, if you are interested, drop us an email ( with your scores and we’ll give you a free insight into what it means for your organisation across the spectrum of the HR cycle.

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