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Death Of Specialists

By Amit Anand, Learning and Leadership Development, Cummins Inc


Amit Anand, Learning and Leadership Development, Cummins Inc

Leaders have great responsibilities. They endure lots of pressures and they are relentless in their search for solutions which can affect the bottom line positively. Some of these leaders invest considerable energy attending conclaves and seminars where alternative ways of performance enhancement are brought up and discussed. One such solution is “Learning and Development”. Learning and Development is a means to an end, the end must satisfy the one most important requirement of an organization which is to help the company carry out the performance it promises to its customers. Some might argue that can’t just be it, but the reality is that, that is what it is. Everything that we do in Learning and Development intends to help the performance the organization promises. Either you are trying to work on behaviors that will positively impact the performance or you are tending to the work environments which can facilitate expected performance.

The new buzz term that is catching up is “Learning Organizations”. This is an example that shall help me to make my point. In a recent attempt in an organization a Sr. leader came up with this noble idea of beginning a learning organization. When the learning and Development department concluded its meetings with the business they chalked out a plan to build a learning organization, the only problem was that they never were cut-out to do that job.

"Everything that we do in Learning and Development intends to help the performance the organization promises"

Here is what the problem is more and more organizations are promoting a general management style of carrying out work, work which in itself is of a specialist domain. The problem with something like learning and development is that everyone would like to weigh in on it but no one neither has done the job in the way it is meant to be done keeping in mind the technicalities associated with it nor they have spent effort reading on the subject with an intention to do it the right way and why is that , the reason is that the environments are perfect for such people, they know it that no one is going to be able to question their solutions and more so it would be easier to get acceptance as they all belong to the same school of thought that uses the same lens, the lens of a generalist.

This is bringing out the most substandard work, with no body being there to detect, these kinds of solutions are implemented and amount to nothing and when they amount to nothing who earns a bad rep, well no one but the subject itself, that is “learning and development”. In this case the L&D personnel simply centralized the existing learning efforts of the organization and presented it to leadership team and they did what they lapped it up. There was no one in the HR team who could analyze the solution and declare it invalid, you might think why was that, well the answer why would they when they themselves are the creators of an environment such as this one wherein a generalist produces a run of the mill, pedestrian solution and the same is accepted and applauded by the likes of him/ her. This is the bane of why certain specialists will all the passion they have for their domain choose to cut short their careers as specialists and are compelled to take the route of a project Manager. The example here of a “learning organization” that I shared is the one that was brought up by Peter M. Singe in his book the Fifth Discipline which has undergone multiple iterations since its first copy in 1990. I would not write much about the ways of a learning organization but can definitely assure you that it is not as easy as merely centralizing learning efforts in an organization. Just goes to show that perpetrators and that’s what they are because they are getting away with turning in substandard and unauthentic work and dis-servicing a wonderful field such as Learning and Development did not even begin to define what a learning organization is.

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