Learning occurs everywhere in your organization. In the new world of work, only a bit of that learning may be part of the formal systems and tools already in place. The new obligation of the learning function is to find out where and how learning takes place and to leverage it. As we redefine what constitutes our organization, we must be concerned with the entire network of talent that serves it. The role of the learning function is much less about trying to create curricula and learning networks than it is about discovering which existing resources and networks may be used to optimize learning. Doing this requires a focus on what I call Development Forensics.
Development forensics is the capture, re-use, or modification and use of deliberately or spontaneously generated learning capability from the entire virtual organization.
Development forensics has three parts:
Confirming that learning has occurred and that the perceived result of it is of sufficient import to warrant investigation. That includes understanding the triggering event that prompted the decision to act (to learn).
- Identification and Description
Documenting what happened. It's all of the things we would normally put into a design document and a project plan—things such as target audience, timing, methods, etc. Some of those elements are also potential sources of data (were SMEs involved? Was a particular supplier used?). This is the point at which detailed descriptions of the learning solution are collected. It's a crucial step in determining the potential application of the learning solution to the rest of the organization. Politics is also in the scope of work. Understanding the urgency and priority that was given to the problem, where support came from, and even who paid for the intervention gets documented.
- Evidence Acquisition, Collection, and Preservation for Sharing
This means ensuring that you have persuasive proof not just that the learning event occurred; but what people actually learned from it, and that it resulted in a meaningful difference in the organization. The documentation you create must be kept somewhere where it can be easily found and retrieved by all interested constituencies. And, done really well, it must be stored in such a way that connections to other solutions, other target groups, and other problem sets are easy to see.
The evidence you collect can be put into two categories.
- "Background" evidence (the part of the organization served, environmental variables or prerequisite conditions, and the issue that prompted the learning intervention, and measures typically gathered and stored for normal business reasons).
- "Foreground" evidence (data specifically about the learning intervention).
Preserving this information is not simply to meet a binary "good training/bad training" requirement. It is to inform better choices and more timely reaction (throughout the organization) when similar needs arise.
As CLO, you can put into place systems and processes that enable and support forensic investigation. You can:
- Define the business issues that will drive the need for forensic investigation.
- Identify available sources and different types of potential evidence.
- Determine Your Evidence Collection Requirements.
- Determine how the evidence you accumulate will be shared.
- Ensure monitoring and auditing systems exist to capture major incidents.
- Ensure ISD review to facilitate easy future use.
- Specify circumstances when escalation to a full L4 evaluation is warranted.
- Decide where and how you will keep the data.
- Make sure you have the capability to do the work
By thinking through and planning an approach to capturing how learning happens in the organizations they serve, the next generation of CLOs can achieve forensic readiness. Forensic readiness is the latent ability to leverage learning when you need to. Its aim is to maximize your ability to gather and use the evidence of learning and to minimize the time and costs of related development efforts. At its best, the evidence is expressed in a business context, not one of individual development. And remember, forensic readiness is complementary to, and an enhancement of, many existing training and development activities.