Friday, March 28, 2008

On being a little fish

For the past couple of weeks or so, I have been seconded to a bid team on behalf of our group.

Normally, I work as a learning consultant/designer within the L&D team. Everything that crosses my desk is L&D related, and it is my job to identify the best way of handling it and to design the learning solution. In my world, the learner/user of my resource/solution is the end user.

So this past couple of weeks has been a real eye opener. Our organisation majors in business process outsourcing, and, without revealing too many details, I was working on one of the many bids being prepared in this regard. Of course, L&D forms part of the equation, but a very small part. Before we can even talk about L&D, decisions have to made about how to conduct the outsourced service in the first place. There are logisitical issues, business processes, IT requirements, HR issues, software applications, partnerships to be formed, suppliers to be identified. It's all very complicated and results in massive documents which I'm glad it isn't my task to read.

My role is a very small part of the whole - I need to put together a proposal on how the L&D side of things will be handled for the staff who will be involved in the implementation of the BPO model. The end users of the outsourced solution are not the end users of the L&D solution, which was a weird place for me to be. Also, whatever L&D solution I put together will be moot if the client decides they don't like the model for the solution. Normally, when I design a learning solution, all the decisions about processes and business models, etc. have already been taken, so I'm walking on relatively firm ground. Here I was, designing a hypothetical learning solution for a hypothetical implementation.

The conversations around the table at team update meetings seldom touched on anything that had direct bearing on me and even less often required my input. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing and where they were going. It took me a while to realise that they were no more certain of anything than I was at that stage, but (having more experience of big bids than I) they were not rattled by that sense of sculpting with mist.

I mentioned to the bid director last night that this had all served to remind me how much I loved L&D. "No matter how brilliant your implementation, if the L&D isn't effective, the whole thing will flop," quoth I smugly. He pointed out that the leader of each stream claimed the same thing about their field: no implementation could succeed without the hardware, the software, the network, the people, the facilities. The success of the implementation depends on achieving joined up working between all the aspects. I had to concede that he had a point! I was a drop in the bucket - no more significant than all the other drops.

For various reasons, I am handing the project over to a colleague today and I am surprised to confess that I have mixed feelings about it. I like being able to focus on L&D things. I like being immersed in L&D. But the sense of cameraderie on the bid team was greater than I have experienced anywhere else, and people seemed to be having so much more fun (there was certainly a lot more noise) than is the case in my quiet office where people seldom speak to one another.

One way and another, it has certainly been helpful to see L&D in context from the very early stages of a proposed implementation!


Rina Tripathi said...

You are so comfortable in all this. I have just stepped into this field and tell Karyn how intimidating was the use of VSS and the QA, I would shake with terror when the bugs got populated. You look so confident God knows when I will reach this level of comfort but to know that I have company is wonderful. Just the cosy feeling of having people in same work field.

Anonymous said...

"No matter how brilliant your implementation, if the [insert any specialty here] isn't effective, the whole thing will flop."

I enjoyed your post; it turns a spotlight on this essential truth of working in an organization: there are lots of pieces, and the people working on one particular piece tend to see that piece as the most important.

Production: if the product or service doesn't get created, there's nothing to sell.

Sales: if the deal doesn't get closed, we don't make any money.

Marketing: if customers don't find out about it, we can't sell.

I.T.: if we can't monitor, control, and adapt, no one knows what's going on.

I worked in large corporate settings (GE made more profit than Microsoft had revenue). To the extent that I could understand how other parts of my company worked, what their goals and processes were, I was better able to relate what I did to what they did.

Otherwise, it's kind of like the liver arguing with the pancreas about whose job is more important to the body as a whole.

Anonymous said...

@rinat I think we're all just figuring it out as we go along, Rina.
@Dave You make a good point! Several, in fact.

V Yonkers said...

Welcome to project management! Even once you get the bid, you might start from scratch as they give you the money to design something totally different than you proposed. But what I love about the bid process is the dreaming of possibilities. It's sort of like being a kid again and saying, if I had a hundred dollars, I'd...