Who Owns the “Other 95%”?

Earlier this evening one of the readers of “What About the Other 95%?” asked a very good question – “Who owns the Other 95%?” A response came quickly to mind…”It takes a village!” My answer points to a firm belief that there is no clear single-point-of-ownership. Wouldn’t it be grand to point to L&D and assign ownership? Not gonna happen. There is no owner. The Other 95% owns us…and the sooner we develop an intimate business relationship with it, the greater the chances are of sustaining workforce capability within the Other 95%.

More likely the role of L&D is that of “Key Enabler” versus “Owner”. And to be an effective enabler in a business sense, there needs to be a business intimacy to the degree of knowing and understanding what is restraining performance in the Other 95%. To me, that’s not ownership of the environment of the Other 95%; however, it implies ownership of the responsibility to acquire intentional intimacy with the attributes presenting in the Other 95%.

Who Owns the Knowledge?

Sir Francis Bacon gets credit for saying “Knowledge is Power”. Okay, that’s cool, but let’s unpack that statement. What knowledge? Who has it? Where can we acquire it? And let’s not forget to ask, Power to do what? We cannot rush to knowledge in the context of slam-dunking a new learning solution designed to deliver results until we know what we really need to solve. We’ve already mastered that art of slam-dunking; we do that every time we develop training to address a symptom. And then when the training solution does not sustain capability the realization that we did not have the right knowledge from which to build our solution gob-smacks us. None of us have the time nor resources to chase that rabbit any longer.

The initial knowledge we seek is an intimate understanding of what is/are the real root cause(s) of the problem. Who owns that knowledge and where can we find it? My answer is simple…let’s head on over to the Point-of-Work and start investigating the attributes around People, Process, Content, Technology, and Measurement. Until there is an intimate knowledge of the aggregate impact of these attributes on the performance deficiency that called us over in the first place, we’re dealing with symptoms of a problem that a stakeholder assumes training will resolve.

The power we give up by taking an order for training only perpetuates the paradigm…the myth…in the minds of our stakeholders that training drives performance.

The power we need to deploy should show up in our response to any training request with… “Sure, we can help you with that…but let us ask you a few questions first.”  

And then we dig for the roots and assess readiness for what may be indicated as a solution.

The power we gain from fully understanding the problem enables us to engage with the rest of the village to address a holistic solution that ultimately may not require training at all. And that scenario really shines the light on the question Who Owns the Other 95%?

If “no training” turns out to be the solution why should L&D spend valuable resources to discover they do not need to build a training solution? If that question surfaces, we are in deeper doo-dah than we realize. Consider this question – Would it be a problem if L&D never developed another course?

If the answer is “YES!” then you’re not alone. That’s where we are. But is it where we should be?

The tide is shifting because of the need for learning and performance support to converge with the Point-of-Work. L&D’s contribution to the business needs to be measured by how much we have enabled sustained workforce capability through appropriately engaging the right village resources. How effective have we been in this convergence? How has performance been impacted? When we can answer those questions, methinks a job has been well done.

But…I can almost hear the question, “Why should this be L&D’s responsibility?”

I’d counter that question with…“Who’s in a better position to do it?”

Better Position?

I’m not convinced traditional L&D scope and charter are skill-equipped to deliver the mail to the rest of the village…yet!

I AM convinced L&D should be, first and foremost, “performance enablers” for the village…the entire learning & performance ecosystem. But…This will not happen by a technology shift. This will not happen through a methodology shift. Enablement will take a cultural shift top to bottom…first. Yes, there may be tech toys and slick methods to follow, but this is a journey worthy of developing a road map before any of that happens.

Can your organizational culture handle this shift toward becoming performance enablers?

Sure it can…but there are a few questions to answer addressing organizational readiness first…

Gary G. Wise
Performance Strategist
@gdogwise
(317) 437-2555