Book Review - Revolutionize Learning and Development By Clark N. Quinn
Clark Quinn sounds like a man on a war path in this book because he argues strongly on the need for learning and development to change. Jay Cross who wrote the book's foreword stated that, "Learning and development is in a bad shape. Really bad. So bad that Clark Quinn wants you to sign up to join him in a revolution to overthrow the crap that our once-proud profession has come to." That echoes the sentiment in the book. Cross also writes that, "L&D, which would better be called Performance and Development, is not doing what it can - and what it is doing, it's doing poorly. Other parts of organizations are creating their own solutions. They don't find L&D relevant. They bypass it." Sounds pretty damning, but it may just be the truth.
In the book's preface Quinn says he is a man on a mission. The mission? It's best captured in one of Quinn's statements, "At two separate learning industry conference expositions early in 2013, it became clear that, while the technology had changed, the underlying models had not. While the world had advanced, learning and development had not moved in a meaningful way. The stuff I had railed against a decade ago was still in place. I was, quite frankly, pissed off. I decided that I simply had to make a stab at trying to address the problem." Part of Clark Quinn's "stab at trying to address the problem" is this book.
The book is divided into four sections titled:
- Status Quo
- To Hand
- Path Forward
Each section contains 2 to 3 chapters and altogether the book has 11 chapters. Chapter 1 though is not part of the sections, and it's titled (no surprise here) A Call to Arms, which summarily outlines how L&D is failing and what would be happening if L&D was getting it right. I would say in 188 pages of content this book contains some pretty good, albeit strong stuff. I was particularly excited about chapter 8, What Does This Look Like?, the largest one in the book with 44 pages which consists entirely of some detailed case studies. This chapter alone is worth the book's price.
Following is a short chapter by chapter review.
Chapter 1 - A call to Arms: This chapter communicates three key messages, what learning and development is currently doing wrong, what we would see in organisations if learning and development was doing things right and finally the need for learning and development to focus on performance, that is people actually doing things.
Section 1 - Status Quo: This section looks at where learning and development is currently
Chapter 2 - Our World: The world we live in has changed, thanks largely to innovation in technology. And that change is not letting up, it continues at a rapid pace. Innovation is now the norm rather that the exception. What does this mean for learning and development practitioners. Basically learning and development needs to be done differently, it must match up with the current rate of innovation. This chapter gives an overview of the current reality learning and development now operates in.
Chapter 3 - Our Industry: The author uses some key words and phrases to describe what he sees to be the current state of L&D. Each of them is a heading followed by detailed comments which makes sad reading for L&D practitioners, but no doubt a reality check. Some of the words and phrases used to describe L&D are inadequate, event-ful, disengaging, antisocial, rigid, wrong focus, insufficient practice and no credibility. Reading this chapter will make you reflect on your own practice as a L&D practitioner.
Section 2 - To Hand: The need to understand current information about how we learn and available tools and apply them to delivering L&D
Chapter 4 - Our Brains: This chapter gives us a broad picture of how our brain works and the implication this has for supporting learning and performance. The importance of practice and action through doing rather than learning by rote is emphasized. This highlights the importance of approaches such as performance support and the need to move away from depending on formal training.
Chapter 5 - Our Organizations: Organizations can't operate the way they used to. People need to be empowered so that they can continually innovate. This off course requires collaborative communication. For this to happen organizations require a different culture. The type of culture where people can try out new ideas safely, where diversity is valued, time for reflection is important and leadership actively support learning. L&D has the responsibility to help engender this type of culture.
Chapter 6 - Our Technology: A discussion of technology available for L&D to facilitate learning in different formats. Technology for enhancing formal learning, providing performance support, embedding social learning and applying mobile to learning are discussed.
Section 3 - Aligning: Case studies which discuss practical situations where successful learning frameworks and strategies have been applied.
Chapter 7 - A Framework For Moving Forward: This chapter highlights the importance of L&D being strategic and in the process integrating different modalities of learning which include formal learning, performance support, and social learning. This strategy importantly also needs to incorporate culture, infrastructure and off course align to metrics that are meaningful to the organization.
Chapter 8 - What Does This Look Like: This chapter looks at a number of case studies. These case studies answer questions such as:
- What are your organization's characteristics?
- What situation did you come into?
- What is your strategic plan?
- How is it working?
These questions are answered from the case study owner's perspetive. Some of the people whose cases are discussed include, Mark Britz at Systems Made Simple, Jane Bozart at North Caroline Office of State Human Resources and Charles Jenning at Reuters.
Chapter 9 - Re-Think: With all this new information about how to re-invent L&D how do you start? This chapter provides some guidance on how to move forward. Important advice given is that L&D must become agile, start adapting at the same rate as the organization. The mindset of L&D must change from training or learning to focusing on performance as an outcome. L&D must adopt the attitude of doing less in the spirit of lean design that provides people with 'just enough' knowledge and resources for people to find answers themselves. Other crucial aspects is supporting and promoting a learning culture and how to support work that people do instead of just providing learning.
Section 4 - Path Forward: This last section looks at implementing strategy by breaking it into concrete steps and moving forward.
Chapter 10 - Re-Do: 'To implement the shift in strategy, we need a very clear focus on performance in the moment and on development over time.' This statement opens the chapter. This is a large chapter which covers a lot of material and some of the key areas discussed are;
- Achieving the short-term goal of supporting performance goals of the organisations.
- Facilitate the development of skills among people that empowers them to search out their own information in order to solve problems themselves.
- Prioritizing what areas to invest resources in.
- Measuring what we do and how well we do it.
- The importance and role of available technology.
Chapter 11 - Moving Forward: This is the concluding chapter, and again a reminder for why we need to change and do things differently. Advice on where and how we can start this change is given. Some crucial information on paying for L&D is given here, importantly L&D people are challenged to have sound business cases for what they do. The chapter concludes with a reminder about the Performance & Development Manifesto challenging L&D practitioners to commit to the 14 principles included in the manifesto.
The book does not really end with the last chapter because it contains some extra resources in the form of appendices, as shown below.
- Appendix A: The LPI Capability Map - A map of capabilities for L&D practitioners as defined by Learning and Performance Institute.
- Appendix B: The Towards Maturity Model - A list of capabilities for L&D as defined by Towards Maturity.
- Appendix C: ASTD Competency Model - Competencies required across the L&D area as defined by ASTD (now ATD, Association for Talent Development).
These appendices provide L&D practitioners with a list of capabilities and competencies necessary to operate successfully in today's world.