Lifelong Learning

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

It appears easier to identify training and skill development for Strata I, II and III in the organization. What training and development do you recommend for Strata IV and V?

Training and skill development is the typical playground for corporate training departments. Understanding Time Span helps us add another dimension directed to the development of personal effectiveness.

Skill development has two sides to it. Side one is a piece of technical knowledge. If the skill is to effectively throw a ball, there is some technical knowledge that must be acquired. What shape is the ball? Round or oblong? What is the size of the ball? Does the ball have seams? Is the ball thrown overhand or underhand? What sport is the ball used in?

But side one requires side two. I can tell you all about the ball, I can even show you how to throw the ball, but if you want to get good at ball throwing, you have to practice.

Training and skill development earns its butter on side one and two, technical knowledge and practice. Yet, as we grow up the layers in the organization, especially for Strata IV and V, traditional training and skill development begins to disappear. Development needs center more on circumstance and often the prescription is to “read a book about (you name the managerial dilemma).”

When I look at training and development, I start by looking at the role. What is the superior purpose for that role and what are the tools used to accomplish that role?

Stratum I – the role is typically a production role of some sort. This leads to traditional training contexts using the tools of production, which turn out to be “real” tools, machines, equipment, fork lifts, trucks. If the role is clerical, the tool is likely a computer.

Stratum II – this role is typically one of coordination, making sure production gets done. The primary tools in Stratum II are schedules, checklists and meetings. While the technical knowledge of compiling daily, weekly and monthly schedules may be straightforward, even with computerized scheduling systems, it is the practice that emerges important. How to schedule and how to change the schedule, coordinating materials, people and equipment in concert to produce the product or service on time at a specific quality standard.

Stratum III – this is the systems role, creating systems, monitoring systems and improving systems. The tools are flow charts, sequencing, time and motion, planning. Root cause analysis can be used to solve problems. These activities go way beyond “best practices.”

And so now we arrive at Stratum IV – this role is engaged in system integration. As organizations grow, so do their systems, and at some point, those systems begin to compete for resources, budget, priority. For the organization to move forward, these competitive pressures must be resolved. Where Stratum III solves problems through root cause analysis, Stratum IV must engage in systems analysis. I encourage managers at Stratum IV to pay attention to Peter Senge (Fifth Discipline), looking at reinforcing systems and balancing systems.

These conversations are rare inside most organizations because there aren’t that many Stratum IV thinkers in the general population. One in two hundred (age 21-50). Professional development in Stratum IV can benefit from participation in facilitated peer groups. They need exposure to other managers at this level to help each other grapple with these systems issues.

Stratum V conversations are even rarer. The frequency of Stratum V thinkers in the general population is seven in 10,000 (age 21-50). Professional development for Stratum V (Business Unit President) also benefits from facilitated peer groups created for discussion of business issues where longer Time Span elements can be considered.

If you have more specific concerns for professional development at any level in the organization, follow the link to Ask Tom.

2 thoughts on “Lifelong Learning

  1. michael cardus

    this is great!
    the breakdown and exploration of skills development + technical knowledge helps my thinking.
    If a person lacks the tech knowledge no matter how much skill training in communication, leadership, etc… they get they will still fail because they cannot work the machine, or whatever tech. they need.

    Tom-do you feel that these stratums are intuitive, certain people are born with stratum 4 thinking? or is it deductive learned and developed through time?

  2. Pingback: Create-Learning Team Building & Leadership Blog » Blog Archive » Requisite Organization for Service

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