Chapter 2: Step 2 Conduct the Organizational Assessment
"Personally I'm always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught."
SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL
Gather all empirical data that relates to training.
Select an outside consultancy to help with your research effort.
Conduct focus- group studies of employees across the company.
Conduct informal interviews about employees' attitudes toward training.
Survey employees about cultural impacts on learning.
Establish a training baseline.
Research the training trends in your industry ”including your competitors and customers.
Research the latest trends in the training industry.
Long before you begin selecting off-the-shelf e-learning or any other "solution" to a learning issue, you need to evaluate the culture and history of your business and assess the current environment. The mistake most companies make in this process is in assuming that e-learning is the catalyst for change. They believe that if they can just get a robust library of courses up and running through the company intranet, employees will be transformed miraculously into active seekers and disseminators of knowledge. Conveniently, when their e-learning efforts fail, they feel completely justified in blaming the technology, tossing it aside as an overly hyped fad that failed to deliver.
Unfortunately, the clich "Build it, and they will come" does not apply in this case. Businesses churn themselves through a handy, if costly, cycle in their misguided attempts to become learning organizations. Certainly they don't benefit from their dismal failures, but because the technology is the problem, no one but the vendor is really to blame, leaving the key in-house players immune to repercussions .
In the years since launching our learning-organization transformation, dozens of major companies, including Boeing, Weyerhauser, Miller Brewing, Dow Chemical, John Deere, and Motorola, have come to benchmark our learning-transformation process. Many of them have told us stories about the failures of their own e-learning initiatives. Usually the problem was that they built vast virtual universities without conducting the necessary up-front work or evaluating the change initiatives required to prepare the culture for e-learning. They implemented technology without considering the cultural impact that such a new approach to learning would generate.
E-learning is about more than technology ”it's a different way to learn. It requires that people take an active role in their own development. No longer are they viewed as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge; they must be champions of their own education. Without a shift in culture, passive learners will not actively seek training. Self-paced training is a waste of money in the hands of people who haven't been guided in its value.
Companies that have failed at e-learning missed this point completely. But because you are reading this book, you will not make the same critical mistakes that so many of your predecessors have made.
Transformation is about change, not technology. You are about to learn how to implement attitude adjustments that will trigger the transformation in employees from passive receivers of knowledge to active seekers. You are about to re-create the environment in which learning takes place. Only after you achieve that can you succeed at technology-based learning.
If you have already made that critical mistake, if you built a virtual university and it failed, don't be dismayed. Even if you failed completely and think you should scrap any further efforts, there is still hope. You can probably save a significant amount of the costs incurred by starting at the beginning of our process and holding the expenditures for infrastructure in abeyance until you do the preliminary work. Do the analysis, talk to the executives, assess your culture, and create a sound business plan that addresses the fundamental cultural and learning needs of employees. Then you can return to your technology investments and evaluate whether what you've chosen fits your requirements.