Learning to Succeed: A book review by Bob Morris

Learning to SucceedLearning to Succeed: Rethinking Corporate Education in a World of Unrelenting Change
Jason Wingard
AMACOM (2015)

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Ann Landers (Eppie Lederer)

According to Jason Wingard, his purpose in this book is to help his reader rethink corporate education polices, practices, and programs in a world of unrelenting change. He explores “the specific intersection among, and interdependence of, corporate strategy, operational planning, and human capital development.” More specifically, he explains HOW to achieve strategic objectives such as these:

o Develop a Contiguous Integration of Learning and Strategy (CILS) for identifying and analyzing learning needs in order to design, implement, evaluate, and (if necessary) modify learning initiatives

o Integrate thought leadership initiatives as well as employee training and development programs with corporate strategy to achieve both short-term and long-term goals

o Overcome common budgeting barriers to corporate learning and make a solid, bottom-line case for CILS, using an ROI formula

o Foster a culture of learning throughout the given enterprise, preferably led by a Chief Learning Officer who is assigned a widely respected strategic leadership role

o Leverage learning to attract, integrate, and retain top talent that will help to increase productivity, innovation, employee engagement for the organization as well as nourish a culture within which personal growth and professional development are most likely to thrive

These are indeed worthy objectives. Achieving them will require everyone in an organization, whatever its size and nature may be, to communicate, cooperate, and (most important of all) collaborate effectively. And let’s not forget about the importance of thought leadership. These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Wingard’s coverage:

o Continuous integration of learning and strategy roles (Pages 34-35, 41-45, 48-56, 68-75, and 80-83)
o Best practices (54-55 and 80-81)
o Culture of development (61-64 and 155-160)
o Information gathering (65-67 and 80-83)
o Individual responsibility for learning and development (73-74)
o Insights: Distribution channels (76-86 and 97-98)
o Targeted development programs (88-89 and 140-143)
o Resistance to barriers to CILS (99-126)
o Investments (113-117 and 120-124)
o Return on Learning from CILS (127-146)
o Performance evaluation (133-134 and 159-160)
o Culture of Excellence (155-160)
o Effectiveness of business unit leaders and managers (163-165)
o Comcast: Mini-case study (171-178)
o Centralization (175-186)
o Sears Holding Corporation: Mini-case study (178-186)
o Deloitte: Mini-case study (184-194)
o Procter & Gamble Mini-case study (194-207)

These are among Jason Wingard’s concluding observations: “Gone are the days when just having a superior product or lower prices or more market penetration formed the basis of a company’s edge. An organization needs to get its house in order and become a proactive learning organization committed to the progressive tools afforded by the CILS method. Corporate learning initiatives serve to bolster four of the strongest paths to success: the talent war, a culture of excellence, manager effectiveness, and brand enhancement. [I presume to add another: effective leadership at all levels and in all areas of the given enterprise.] Through an ongoing dedication to the CILS values of analysis, strategic planning, and continuous assessment, evaluation, and programmatic learning, all members of the learning organization from the C-suite to middle managers to the rank and file employees work together to give the company an edge on the competition.”

Obviously, no brief commentary such as mine could possibly do full justice to the abundance of information, insights, and counsel to be found in this book. However, I hope I have at least indicate why I think so highly of it as well as of the thought leader who wrote it. For those in need of supplementary resources, I now strongly recommend three: Return on Learning: Training for High Performance at Accenture, co-authored by Donald Vanthournout, Tad Waddington, and other members of Accenture’s Capability Development Team; Dean Spitzer’s Transforming Performance Measurement: Rethinking the Way We Measure and Drive Organizational Success; and Enterprise Architecture As Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution co-authored by Jeanne W. Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson.

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