The adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” is timeless advice as well as a useful reminder to talent and L&D leaders. We all aspire to go beyond the reactive, “order-taker” training status still too common in organizations today and being ‘strategic’ is a difference maker.
A solid strategy is the hallmark of high impact, high-performing talent and L&D function, but crafting a useful strategy is easier said than done: How to overcome the inertia of maintaining the status quo programs that keep us busy and employees somewhat satisfied? How to build something with lasting power in the face today’s dynamic, every-changing business world? And who has the time to go through the 20+ steps of classic strategic planning in the first place?
In considering all the successful and ‘not so hot’ strategies over the years, I would offer the following five ideas to strengthen a plan:
First, taking the time to gain a new perspective is the best way to create new solutions.
We often convince ourselves that we’ve tried everything and are doing the best possible. Strategic thinking starts with a fresh scan of what’s going on externally and internally and can provide a creative spark to better solutions to today’s challenges.
Second, a great talent and L&D plan stands together, not alone.
The best development plans incorporate and contribute to the larger strategic needs and interests of the business and functions. Furthermore, the effort to create an effective development plan is an exercise in collaboration and influence, not a heroic solo performance from the talent/L&D leader. Involve a wide-ranging set of voices, stakeholders, and perspectives to both ensure a relevant and supported plan.
Third, get ready to make real choices and place a few ‘big bets’.
We often sub-optimize development efforts by trying to cover too many basis, maintain too many heritage programs and satisfy too many requests. Strategic planning should uncover what is most important and help guide courageous choices. High impact, high performing talent and L&D organizations know where to apply limited resources, making a few ‘big bets’ that matter most.
Fourth, thinking execution is also being strategic.
Once choices are made, a successful strategy applies an equal amount of disciplined thinking about execution. What are the resources and capabilities necessary for implementation? Are new capabilities and skills needed in the development team? What metrics will guide the work and indicate the targeted ROI?
Fifth, the second plan is much better that the first.
Any good sports coach knows that the team will need time to successfully utilize a new playbook. If you and your organization are relatively new to applying a strategic approach to talent development, be patience and diligent in your efforts. Your first time around may feel a bit rough, but consistent application of this four-step playbook will yield greater confidence and impact as you build strategic muscle.
(c) 2016 Kevin D. Wilde