The best way for learning professionals to demonstrate their influence and get a seat at the table is to think like a CEO — or at the very least, understand the business leaders' goals and put learning programs in place to help achieve those goals. And one way to learn about what CEOs care about is to read books by CEOs.
I just finished reading Doing What Matters: How to Get Results That Make a Difference – The Revolutionary Old-School Approach, by James M. Kilts, the former Chairman and CEO of The Gillette Company. One of the main messages in the book is to focus on the fundamentals of what business is all about and to stay focused on those fundamentals. Kilts lays out three business fundamentals that I think every learning professional should understand.
- Step 1: Keeping things simple.
- Step 2: Revenue growth
- Step 3: Get unnecessary costs out of the system (and use the savings to invest in growing revenues)
So what does this mean for the learning and development managers and HR leaders? For me personally, it has inspired me to focus more on the fundamentals of what the learning and development function should do. And that is to help the organization improve performance; specifically, performance in revenue growth and getting unnecessary costs out of the system. To help focus our attention on helping the business achieve its objectives, we are putting into place a process to screen out training requests that do not support the business goals. When we conduct a needs analysis or field a training request we will ask the following questions:
- Will this intervention improve revenue? How?
- Will this intervention increase productivity and/or reduce costs? How?
If the answer to either of these questions is “No,” we won't implement the proposed intervention. This simple screen does not replace the needs analysis process. In fact, it becomes part of the needs analysis process, and it helps focus us on what really matters to the business.
How do you focus on supporting business goals in your organization? Post your comment below.
Bill Cushard, Chief Learning Officer at The Knowland Group, is a learning leader with more than 12 years experience in training and performance improvement at well-known companies like E*TRADE Financial, Accenture, and Time Warner Cable.