Mission Centric Learning

| By TMA World


Steve Pritchard, Head of Strategic Solutions at TMA World, recently addressed a group of forty senior learning and development professionals at the iVentiv Learning and Development Executive Knowledge Exchange in London.   Here are some key messages emerging from the event.


In a recent speech to students graduating from NYU’s Stern School of Business, GE CEO Jeff Immelt talked about the trend in global business of simplifying structures in order to be more responsive and get closer to local markets.  He comments; ‘change requires new decentralized business models. The days of cycling global ideas through a central headquarters is over. Globalization requires pushing capability to empowered local teams’.

If this is true and we think it is, whilst it might be relevant to acknowledge grand ideas like ‘strategic business alignment’ and ‘enterprise-wide solutions’ as we design learning with our client partners; a far more pressing issue is actually reaching the right target audience groups with immediate needs.    Increasingly learning is less about curricula and more about capability building.    Digitisation has unleashed a tidal wave of devolution, in which real value creation resides with project teams on ‘specific missions’ (often local ones) within a wider global footprint.  These missions represent the ‘performance context’ in which people are most willing and ready to learn.   This is the location of ‘mission centric learning’.   Learning at the speed of need; where relevence meets resonance.  

Across many large organisations, the issue under increasing and uncomfortable scrutiny centres on what is the ‘Learning and Development Function’ for?  Why does it exist?  How does it add value?   How in the light of dramatic technological advances that facilitate mobile and personalised learning, can ‘L&D’ even justify its role?   

Paradoxically the purpose of ‘learning and development’ is less about helping people to ‘learn or develop’, and far more about focussing support on individual and collective performance.   This might seem like semantics.   But the language we use needs to be clear and specific.   ‘Peformance Support’ is our whole raison d’etre.   It merges the learning context, a collective mission, I.E relevance, with individual performance requirements.    The gap between performance expectation and individual capability is the sweet spot of resonance.    ‘Learning and developing’ is not an input but rather a byproduct of having the right tools, frameworks, and expertise to deliver on a set of goals.

Our focus today must be mission centric learning.   It’s not about firing off untargeted ‘cluster bombs’ of digital content at random, neither is it about designing overly elaborate learning processes, that might win you an industry award for technical excellence, but actually make little difference to performance.    Mission centric learning is about being embedded in the operational workflow of specific teams with a clear mission.   Only then can we curate useful content, whilst coaching individuals and teams to deliver superior

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