Reorganization: The Role and Agenda of the CLO

In many boardrooms and senior staff meetings, a grim ritual is taking place. Companies are going through the process of organizational reformulation, reconfiguration or reengineering. It is often a process of reverse-birth, undoing size and holdings to be

In vain one looks for allies around the table. Everyone’s eyes are slits, lips tight and thin. Even levity appears an intruder. Although such meetings involve senior staff, frequently there is no CLO present, nor anyone else who might press the issue not only of factoring in learning, relearning or unlearning, but also of the relationship between learning and structure—that learning may have a preferred and optimal structure of its own that needs to be added to that of the overall reorganization plan. In the rare event that a CLO or CLO-type might be invited to such planning sessions, what follows below might be his learning advocacy agenda:

  • The relationship between management styles and learning styles. Managers alternate between interpersonal and formal modes. The one is ruled by networking, the other by functional forms. The one is up close, the other distant. So is learning. It is both training and education, incremental advancement and group mind-sets. If reorganization is driven totally by non-learning issues, the baby may be thrown out with the bathwater. Thus, make sure the resultant reorganization maintains the centrality of the fusion of management and learning.
  • Employ the dynamics of a learning overlay. Using learning as a diagnostic, overlay the new proposed structure to determine where there is information flow and where there is information impasse, where data is hoarded and where it is shared, where learning is valued and tapped and where it is trivialized and diminished. Then urge corrective action.
  • Demonstrate the cost savings, time saved and reduction of number of offerings through blended instruction. Suggest that with such economies, the ROI could serve as a model for the entire reorganization structure.
  • Link learning structures to future development. All subsequent growth is accompanied and often sustained by future knowledge. Knowing more, and knowing more differently, is anticipatory. Indeed, the future coexists with learning. It is as much its minion as innovation. Creativity, in fact, creates the future.
  • Align learning objectives with company objectives. Better still, recommend that the learning objectives shape and drive the organizational goals. Even better still, request that the strategic planners develop a long-range learning plan at least 10 years out. And then compile and distribute a science-fiction reading list.

Will the above agenda of the CLO stand a chance of being used, let alone listened to? Yes, but only if the agenda and the arguments always and insistently embody learning itself, and only when the CLO demonstrates that he has the range and working knowledge of a CEO. In other words, senior staff to a large extent has to be surprised into acceptance of a CLO and his or her agenda. Quietly and competently, the CLO asks senior staff to put on the learning glasses to see how slash and burn might find their antidote in live and learn, how a company may reorganize itself according to the double play of Operation Leapfrog: While we are catching up, let us also get ahead. In such instances and applications, CLOs may find themselves welcomed as the top of the learning pyramid and the advanced guard of the learning curve.

Irving H. Buchen serves on the doctoral faculty of Capella University and teaches communications at Florida Gulf Coast University. The author of four books, he is a senior research associate to HR Partners and heads up his own consulting firm, Optimum Future Systems. Irving can be reached at

September 2003 Table of Contents