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Planning to Succeed at Talent Development: 5 Things to Keep in Mind

The adage "failing to plan is planning to fail" is a timeless observation that serves as a useful reminder to talent and learning and development (L&D) leaders. We all aspire to go beyond the reactive, "order-taker" training status still too common in organizations and while a solid talent development strategy is the hallmark of high-impact, high-performance organizations, crafting a useful strategy is easier said than done.

So how do we overcome the inertia of maintaining the status quo programs that keep us busy and employees somewhat satisfied? How do we build something with lasting power in the face of today’s dynamic, ever-changing business world? And who has the time to go through the 20+ steps of classic strategic planning in the first place?

Based on research and the guidance of leading L&D practitioners, i4cp has created a practical, step-by-step Talent Development Strategy Playbook to address these challenges. It consists of a simple four-step framework with tips, templates, and key questions any talent and L&D practitioner can apply.

As you work through the playbook, keep five things in mind:

1. Taking the time to gain a new perspective is the best way to create new solutions.

We often convince ourselves that we’ve tried everything and are doing the best possible. Strategic thinking starts with a fresh scan of what’s going on externally and internally and can provide a creative spark leading to better solutions to today’s challenges.

2. Great talent and L&D plans stand together, not alone.

The best development plans incorporate and contribute to the larger strategic needs and interests of the business and functions. Furthermore, the effort to create an effective development plan is an exercise in collaboration and influence, not a heroic solo performance from the talent/L&D leader. Involve a wide-ranging set of voices, stakeholders, and perspectives to both ensure a relevant and supported plan.

3. Get ready to make real choices and place a few big bets.

We often sub-optimize development efforts by trying to cover too many bases, maintain too many legacy programs, and satisfy too many requests. Strategic planning should uncover what is most important and help guide courageous choices. High-impact, high-performing talent and L&D organizations know where to apply limited resources, strategically making a few big bets that matter most.

4. Thinking execution is also being strategic.

Once choices are made, a successful strategy applies an equal amount of disciplined thinking about execution. What are the resources and capabilities necessary for implementation? Are new capabilities and skills needed in the development team? What metrics will guide the work and indicate the targeted ROI?

5. The second plan is much better than the first.

Any good sports coach knows that the team will need time to successfully utilize a new playbook. If you and your organization are relatively new to applying a strategic approach to talent development, be patient and diligent in your efforts. Your first time around may feel a bit rough, but consistent application of this four-step playbook will yield greater confidence and impact as you build strategic muscle.

This article is an excerpt from i4cp's Talent Development Strategy Playbook. If you're not an i4cp member, you can read more about the playbook here.

Kevin D. Wilde is i4cp Strategic Business Advisor and former Chief Learning Officer at General Mills. He was awarded the 2007 CLO of the Year by Chief Learning Officer magazine, ranked as the 2012 #1 Learning Elite, and is a member of the Training Magazine Hall of Fame.

Kevin Wilde
Kevin D. Wilde is a strategic business advisor to the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) and currently serves as an executive leadership fellow at the University of Minnesota. His prior 34-year corporate career includes serving as the head of learning and talent management at General Mills. Chief Learning Officer magazine named him CLO of the Year in 2007. His most recent award-winning book is, “Coachability: The Leadership Superpower.”