Building Developmental Leadership Networks with Decentralized L&D

As centralized L&D strategies reach their limits in an increasingly fast-changing workplace, the urgent need for more decentralized strategies is becoming apparent. No longer do we have the luxury of the stability and predictability needed to rely on fancy formal training programs and well-catered events focused on disseminating best practices. It’s like buying high-end, organic leafy greens in bulk – it doesn’t make sense when most of the product is inedible by the time we’re ready to use it. It creates bigtime waste.
While this is less and less of a secret, L&D leaders are struggling with how to address the challenge. Let’s start with what’s clear:
– learning needs to be less of a side-production and more of a continuous way of working
– learning support needs to be more localized and agile – relying on external support is often too slow
– stakeholder systems largely lack the capacity for supporting themselves as needed
With these points in mind, building the systemic capacity for continuous learning and development is a key strategic focus of L&D moving forward. The open question is, how do we do it?
While there are no obvious answers here, as this is a complex challenge which will require a lot of experimentation and reflection leading to emergent solutions, one thing is becoming evident: new roles within stakeholder systems are needed to support local development, and new roles within L&D are needed to support these roles.
As an example, we are working with several client organizations to build what we are calling developmental leadership networks. Developmental leaders are skilled in supporting others on their team, through daily work, to build core capabilities that serve as the foundation of continuous learning and development. Developmental leaders may also step into more formal roles as Capability Coaches with this same goal.
L&D can in turn support the network of developmental leaders and Capability Coaches by providing resources, coaching, mentoring, or other types of learning experiences focused on helping them to grow in this powerful and vital role.
While there is great potential for L&D teams to create strategic value for the organization in such a role, there are likely some important gaps to close for us to step into this role effectively. First and foremost, we must become capable developmental leaders and Capability Coaches ourselves. Second, we must becomes skilled facilitators of decentralized, network-based learning and leadership development.
By shifting our focus to growing into these emerging roles and building systemic capacity for continuous learning and development, we can create more strategic value for our organizations and move to the center of business strategy where learning belongs.
To learn more about our vision for Capability Coaching and L&D, click here
Tom Palmer