Is L&D still about command and control?

It’s a loaded question. Heavily skewed to the angle of answering yes. With enough latitude that it could be answered maybe. You’d have to be a brave soul to answer no.

I was listening to some of the Good Practice podcasts recently and two made me think about the above question. One was about how L&D markets itself internally and the other was about how L&D and vendors can work better together. 

It struck me that part of the discussions being had were about how L&D wield this power over vendors, how they choose to act with them, and how they choose to ‘manage’ them. And there’s also something about when we deliver programmes to our intended groups, how we create a narrative which essentially says – nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh this group has this learning available to them and you don’t so ha! 

I’m being facetious, people!

The fast paced changing world of work that is now just commonplace for most people means that all leaders in businesses and organisations need to better understand how to truly collaborate with other teams – internal and external – and how to be inclusive and appreciative in the design of learning solutions.

It’s ok to have learning solutions designed and created for distinct groups. It’s more important to ensure the accompanying narrative doesn’t exclude or make one group feel superior to another. It’s also important to ensure as business leaders ourselves, L&D cultivate and help others see how new work can be achieved.

When we think about inclusive design and appreciative communications, what we need to enable are things like:

  • Co-creation of learning materials so that it’s not seen as L&D who made the thing, but a collaborative effort. Not just identifying SMEs either, but providing a way for people doing the job to be active participants in the design and provision of the learning materials.
  • In our communications helping people understand what’s available for them or how they can access stuff if what you’ve written isn’t immediately available to them.
  • When partnering with external suppliers to ensure they are brought in to feel part of the team, not just order takers.
  • Practising things like openly sharing the work you’re doing with others even if it’s only in development. Creating transparency means others are more likely to have an ongoing interest and build trust in L&D as opposed to a big launch.
  • Inviting active feedback about the programme delivery so that you understand if it’s having the desired performance improvements you’re seeking.
  • Being careful to ensure that the user test group or focus group you invite to test stuff is made up of a diverse group of people – it’s quite easy to dismiss this as being too difficult to do. It’s only difficult if you don’t try.
  • In your communications being aware of and limiting the use of gendered language. It’s easy to describe things in certain ways, and when we do we can unwittingly reinforce stereotypes. The English language is rich and wide in its vocabulary and we should always seeks to phrase things in ways which all people can appreciate. 

As ever, these are just my thoughts. Maybe they spark thoughts for you. If they do, comment below. 


Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

One thought on “Is L&D still about command and control?”

  1. Solutions or interventions? Or if neither existed … would it matter?

    L&D does on an initial think, seem to be part of the system of command and control. Deciding for others about learning content, solutions, design. Gatekeeping; filtering content, choosing. Very powerful. Working within the system. Infantilizing?

    There’s a lot in your blog; what role L&D plays in reinforcing systems, the relationships with vendors – the power that is wielded, the joyful work when it is a collaborative partnership.
    What is L&D is an interesting question..

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