This article will discuss things that hinder or can derail your organizational learning and development goals.
- Common obstruction in an organization's learning and development initiatives
- Discussing the "undiscussable."
- Hoarding Information
- Short-term focus versus long-term focus
Common obstruction in organization's learning and development initiatives
The most apparent surface-level issues are time, resources, and authority. The learning & development team has to do all the groundwork but does it have the time to do it? And does it have the resources it needs to do its work, and does it have the decision-making authority?
In many organizations, Learning and Development teams are set up with no clear goals, deliverables or timelines with a bare minimum of resources. Priorities keep changing or getting added on top of other priorities.
Then it's the authority of how this team's work connects to the larger organization's decision-making. It may seem like people are kept busy and from getting in the way of business as usual. So this question of, do they have the authority? How are the team's findings connected to the organization's decisions? Those things should be clear and set out from the beginning.
Learning & Development leaders would recall the time, resources, and authority as things they keep fighting for every day, but that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Discussing the "undiscussable."
Undiscussables are the things you don't talk about. This could be the assumptions or norms within the organization.
Let's unpack the undiscussable:
In some organizations, we have leaders talking about sharing ideas. The conversations usually go like this:
- "We want your ideas on the table".
- "We want you to brainstorm".
- "We want you to come up with solutions".
And more often than not, the undiscussable is that when you come up with that solution or when someone from the team offers it,
We hear things like, "That's a great idea, but..."
"It's nice, and I'm sure we can look at this, however...".
"We've tried this before."
Sometimes, it goes into repetitive patterns or loops. Let's say someone solicits an idea from you, and you are more than happy to give it, but you're also aware of where this is going. The "buts" and "howevers" could inhibit you from even providing ideas or doing it with conviction that, yes, my idea will be heard. And that becomes the stereotype.
You refrain from discussing ideas because ideas get rejected. And when the leader says, give us some ideas and is surprised that the hall is silent.
If it's hard to raise the undiscussable, your organization has a problem. Let's take a look at our iceberg analogy again. It's down under the surface, and getting it up to the surface is hard. Some things are considered sacred in organizations, and discussing them is impossible. This thought process is typical in a top-down company culture where you're likely to hear things like, "We have been doing this task this way because it has always been done this way."
Often, our teams are made up of different team members. They represent different skill sets or different parts and functions of the organization. We have information that we hold close to our vests because that's our competitive advantage.
"If I know it, then I'm important. And if I give it away, well, I'm not needed anymore".
So this question about holding information in teams and
organizational learning is a critical issue that hinders learning and development and becomes a zero-sum game.
Typically it works the other way around. If I have an idea and you have an idea, and we exchange our ideas, we each have two ideas from which we can benefit.
So this thought process of not sharing information can be a significant bottleneck in many organizations. The mindset of withholding information because it gives one leverage can be detrimental to L&D initiatives.
Short-term focus versus long-term focus
We have seen many times the top level of management saying the middle level needs more line of sight and then the bottom saying that they have no sense of direction and have no idea what the leadership is doing.
Sometimes we have steering committees and task forces to do visioning exercises. And they come up with these long-term priorities, missions, and visions when they finish their fanciful retreats.
And then, when they come back, it's back to reality. They are caught fire fighting and get caught so much in the short-term realities that it's often disorienting. And more often than not, what happens is that this get's combined with the double-edged sword of cost-cutting. Focusing on future goals and visions can be challenging when you are constantly occupied with day-to-day firefighting tasks and struggles. This lack of focus on the future can negatively affect morale and the overall success of an organization.
Several things can hinder organizational learning and development goals. These include surface-level issues such as needing more time, resources, and authority for the learning and development team. The difficulty in discussing sensitive or unspoken assumptions or norms within the organization is known as "undiscussables". Hoarding of information by team members who see it as a competitive advantage. Short-term focus versus a long-term focus in decision-making, with some managers prioritizing immediate results over the long-term growth and development of the organization.