From Ideas to Results: The CLO’s Role

Learning executives can help improve the success rate of business initiatives by aligning their development plans with the organization.

Because of the fast-paced nature of business, corporations typically have several new initiatives on the table at any given time, which fragments their attention and dooms many ideas to failure. Learning executives can help improve the success rate of these initiatives by aligning their development plans with the business and embedding the tools and skills needed for change in everyday training.

“What we see in so many companies today is there are just too many initiatives going on,” said Michael Kanazawa, chief executive at the consulting firm Dissero Partners and co-author of BIG Ideas to BIG Results: Remake and Recharge Your Company, Fast. “Everything’s treated like a top priority, and as a result, nothing is held to long enough to truly take root. A lot of things get started; nothing gets finished all the way through.”

Another reason new corporate initiatives fail is because they usually are set from the top, and as a result, employees on the frontline rarely are consulted for their opinions.

“You end up with solutions that sometimes are not designed to work in the real world because no one working the frontline jobs was asked about whether this would work or not,” Kanazawa said. “So you have a lack of engagement, and there is zero ownership.”

CLOs can help facilitate a discussion between the leaders of an organization and the employees, so that everyone has a stake in the planning of an initiative.

“The CLO organization is critical in that type of role,” Kanazawa said. “The one [caution] is if the CLO organization takes too much accountability for being the source of communication to employees, they shortcut that relationship between each employee and their direct line manager. If the focus can be the CLO organization helping to create leaders at all levels who communicate with their people often, accurately, authentically and openly, that’s the right way to go about it.”

For change to be successful, employee development must align with the business strategy.

“You have to treat the business issues and the people issues together to really see through a successful initiative,” Kanazawa said. “The CLOs can play a critical role [in balancing] those two because [they can] make sure that people have the right job skills and that those job skills are being deployed through leadership models.”

Lastly, a CLO can integrate the skills necessary for a successful change initiative into day-to-day training.

“In a lot of companies where we’ve worked, they will put together capability development training on change, but it’s treated as an offline training course. And it’s not integrated into the actual business changes that are going on day-to-day,” Kanazawa said. “You know for certain there’s always going to be more and more change coming, so don’t treat it as a one-time overlay.”

The success of change initiatives isn’t entirely on the shoulders of the learning department, as the corporation and those at the top need to create a cohesive, understandable process for change.

“Before Olympic skiers start down the hill, they’ve already thought through every single turn, the timing at which those turns are going to occur, how they’re going to shift their body weight — they’ve thought through everything from start to finish,” Kanazawa said. “If corporations were to take a moment of time up-front to design and architect this process [of change], then they’d be more like that Olympic skier and get to the end point faster.”