How Learning Enables Strategy

by Bill Heller
How Learning Enables Strategy Mike Lewis

At any meeting, any project failure analysis, or unfortunately any random day of the week someone may ask how does this enable or redirect our organization strategy? In many organizations the thing being questioned could be just about anything because strategy is viewed as a thing unto itself. Many organization strategies are merely a goal, vision, or collection of wishes assembled by them, where “them” is anyone from outside consultants to the former executive team members.

As a witness to and participant in effective organization strategies, as well as some that were ineffective, I have learned one thing that separates effective strategies is paying attention to the Strategy Enablers. There is nothing cryptic in the naming. Strategy Enablers are the next steps in strategic thinking and create a foundation or path for successful strategic outcomes. Strategy Enablers serve as the wheels that reduce the amount of effort required to reach your organization’s strategic destination. Also like a wheel, Strategy Enablers are not always useful on their own. They function best as a component of a plan or goal, rather than the plan or goal itself. And like a wheel, Strategy Enablers allow you to move backwards, to lose strategic ground, if not actively managed or steered.

In today’s world of highly effective open source, pay by the minute X as a Service (XaaS), and roll your own information technologies that require minimal coding, organization strategy no longer relies on Strategy Enablers like a bigger widget, more production capacity, or even a secret sauce. Rather, achieving organization strategy today requires an intentional focus on your teams’ skills and talents to successfully move the organization toward a desired future state. While merely a background thought just a few years ago, today the increasing technology evolution cycle and insufficient college graduation rates means that the skills and talents required to support strategic time horizons are in short supply. As such, the mental tools needed by organizations to compete in today’s dynamic markets must be developed through intentional learning and training goals that serve as Strategy Enablers.

The need for new and enhanced skills is constantly emerging. While you may have sufficient knowledge, skill, and talent to operate this month, next month is coming and your operating climate might be noticeably different. When that change arrives, how will your organization benefit? Preparing for emerging market, product, regulatory, and innovation changes is sort of like packing for a Winter vacation. Yes, you need warm clothes to get to the airport however when you arrive at your next destination you will need something different, no gloves etc. Learning and training build the mental tools your organization needs to compete tomorrow.

Many people reading the words above will nod in agreement, then do nothing, primarily because they are not sure what to do and are concerned that they may do the wrong thing, attend the wrong course, or choose the wrong future skill. The reality is that no one can know the precise skill to learn or precise time to learn a new skill. The only thing organization leaders can know is the skills that brought you to today will not carry you into tomorrow. All of which supports learning and training as part of your directional planning process to develop your Strategy Enablers.

While you cannot know everything or every skill you will need in the future, you can start with those you think you will need as you create and support the learning machinery and habits to propel your organization into the future. Perhaps the most relevant thought as you take these first steps is to not let a quest for perfection interfere with progress. Just like learning and training, planning and progress require time and effort to develop. Thus, the only bad action is no action.

Developing the learning and training skill in your organization enables change capacity to react when your market shifts while also developing the insights that might cause your organization to shift the entire market. Adding learning through training as an organizational skill is an essential for every organization to compete in any market, through any transition, and thrive as the next version of itself. That is why learning enables strategy, any strategy, including yours.

To learn more about training that could help you achieve your personal or organization strategies, visit our course catalog.

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