When we stop to give some thought to strategic learning and the role of training and development in the company, it’s easy to get side-tracked by searching for definitions, concepts, frameworks, and all those other distractions that strategic knowledge managers work with on a daily basis.
Here at SMR International, we recommend cutting through the layers and make some effort to keep it just a simple as possible.
When a client or colleague wants to talk about how to move forward with a program or a learning activity that will present the basics of, say, succession planning to middle management, and they are a little confused or awkward about the terminology, we try to guide the conversation. If they’re worried about how to speak with people about “strategic” learning, we simply switch the conversation over to our standard talking point: “strategic learning is anything you or your people share that makes them do their work better.”
Not a hard concept to get your arms around, and if we then want to push for a little more involvement, we bring up Peter Senge’s learning organization, and we tie it to Noel Tichy and Eli Cohen’s ideas about the teaching organization, and things start to fall into place.
In the learning organization, according to Senge, the “working” and the “learning” are inseparable, since all learning is contextual. Learning, therefore, is only successful when what is learned is put to work in context. Easy enough.
Then we bring in Tichy and Cohen, whose concept of the teaching organization caught on in many companies and enterprises a few years ago, and we’re still hearing about it. The point with the teaching organization is that it works with the learning organization, with both frameworks giving attention to continually learning new knowledge skills, concepts, ideas, and the like, all in the pursuit of better and smarter work. With the teaching organization, though, the additional purpose is that everyone makes the commitment to share what they learn with others.
And isn’t that what strategic learning is all about? It’s simply knowledge sharing, in the best and most productive sense of knowledge sharing. It’s what we do – from the perspective of workplace performance – to get to excellence in our work.