Learning organizations are very good at defining learning objectives and crafting programs that deliver on these objectives. However, the raison d’être for learning organizations is meeting business objectives through learning. The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning by Calhoun Wick, Roy Pollock, Andrew Jefferson is a great book to read just to understand how training departments should orient themselves towards meeting business objectives and what they should do to get there.
Here is a brief extract from this book:
Making the shift from defining learning objectives to defining business outcomes is, on the one hand, a subtle change for the learning organization, but it has profound implications. Defining business outcomes differs from the traditional practice of defining learning outcomes in two important dimensions: timing and focus.
The vast majority of course objectives that we see are learning objectives that define capabilities — what participants will know or be able to do at the end of the course of instruction. In contrast, the business – centric outcomes we advocate focus on performance — what participants will do on the job — their behaviors and the results they will generate. That distinction is crucial, because learning only creates value when it is transferred and applied to the work of the individual and the organization. “ High – quality learning and training do not necessarily translate into business results. Enterprise learning must be driven with the end in mind: the business results to be achieved ” (Vanthournout & others, 2006). Defining learning objectives is still an essential part of the instructional design process, but they are subordinate to the business objectives; they are a means to the end, not the ultimate objective.
Being explicit about the business outcomes that a learning program is intended to achieve has many advantages:
- It makes explicit the business value of the time and money that will be invested. As such, it garners greater support from both managers and participants.
- It helps management prioritize training in the same way it weighs other investments.
- It answers the “what’s in it for me?” question for participants and therefore satisfies one of the principles of adult learning: the need to know Why?
- It highlights the need for managerial involvement, since managers control the environment in which transfer and application must occur.
- It provides alignment with the business and a clear criterion against which to evaluate potential approaches: Is this the best way to achieve the result?
- The outcomes are stated in a way that makes how to measure them apparent.