Ever since I can remember, every role I’ve had within corporate Learning and Development teams has involved some element of systematising an internal process such as capturing the client enquiry through to servicing the client. These processes were usually focussed inward towards the L&D department as a way to explain our value by measuring our activity. They were not usually focussed on measuring our effectiveness in supporting and achieving business performance outcomes.
Let me provide an example.
With every corporate restructure or ‘transformation program’ I’ve survived, after the initial angst of that axe hanging over my job, there came a short period of relief that my role was safe until I realised that there were now less people to do the same amount of work. (Isn’t it strange that restructure usually means reduction in “head count” but not redesign, rethink and tossing out old unworkable ideas and processes?)
Once the danger passed, those who were successful securing roles in the new organisational restructure quietly went about their new roles doing exactly what they did before the restructure but with new titles and a drawer full of discarded old business cards. For a while our inboxes were full of emails asking us to change our signature blocks by the end of the week to the attached template and to be mindful of the new positions and titles of senior leaders.
It also meant some form of communications had to go out to business stakeholders who were expecting the same, if not better, level of service from Learning and Development.
A restructure usually meant that the business units may have lost their own business unit learning and development teams in the centralisation of services so there was always a high level of expectation of the new corporate L&D team and animosity towards them. One couldn’t help but feel that you had to prove your worth to the business unit and you really weren’t their trusted business partner until you had delivered a program that helped them, their business or…made their business managers look good.
I also felt sorry for the teams who had to go through the added hassle of having to come up with new brand, slogans or logos and work with creative agencies.
Why did I recall all this now?
Euan Semple recently wrote a blog post called Busywork Rots the Soul and I believe that in my past, in Learning and Development, I did a lot of busy work. (In my old military days, we called this “admin” paperwork and odd jobs you had to do that was not your main job but it had to get sorted. I felt that much of my work in corporate Learning and Development – especially in the years of constant restructures – was admin – setting up new processes, sorting out the odd requests while trying to figure out whose role it is to do that job or meet that request, attending meetings, doing favours, responding to emails on top of designing, developing, project managing, overseeing and facilitating courses).
I had lost count of the times I was asked by my managers to create new tools, processes and templates after every restructure. In later years, this was becoming more frequent as the constant round of restructures took place every year. Tools for the instructional design processes (Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation & Evaluation); tools for Project Management; tools for Client Servicing; tools for the Sales process.
It got to a point where after every restructure, I simply rebranded each tool, template, report and process with the new brand, new logo, new colour scheme, new font and maybe changed the names here and there. Like Ground Hog Day, I put them all back into the shared drive (later years, this became SharePoint); communicated the naming conventions and versioning control process with a heavy long drawn out sigh and waited for the notification that came soon after telling us that our share drive had reached capacity and that we were to clean out and archive documents. The restructure meant redesigning our corporate intranet pages, rebranding all our documents, resources and print material. It also meant archiving old web pages and starting afresh with new online site directories and pages and a multitude of other mind numbingly boring tasks that went with rebranding.
Over and over this scenario played out with every restructure in every role in every organisation I worked for.
Many people complain that email and unnecessary meetings are the bane of their workplace existence but I would add more to that mix namely irrelevant and useless tasks that serve no other purpose that measure our activity and not our effectiveness.
I never was successful in speaking up against this merry-go-round of useless activity. Instead, I decided to leave the corporate world rather than create one more new rebranded needs analysis template again or another SharePoint site with the new team structure. In hindsight, if I did stay on in the organisation I may have been more vocal through the enterprise social network to find out if others felt the same way and if there was a better way to come up a solution. After all, people saw the futility of what we were doing but there was a feeling of resignation.
In hindsight, maybe I should have spoken up and at least tried to make a difference in some small way to show that Learning and Development does play a critical role and that is about supporting the business to achieve its objectives rather than getting them to fill out forms, read lengthy reports about things they don’t really care about or follow long winded processes that add no true value.
Have you had similar experiences with restructures? I’d be interested in your thoughts.