Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Big question: making it up as I go along

This month's big question from LCB is around the economy.

What is the impact of the economy on you and your organization? What are you doing as a result?
You will notice that we are more than halfway through the month and I am only just getting around to answering. This is due to the nature of the response!

You see, I am my organisation! Up until September last year, I was one of 28K people working for a blue chip corporate. Then I found myself peremptorily unemployed. I have been advised by more than one person who is in a position to know about these things, that I had a strong case for constructive dismissal. But that's not really how I roll. I preferred to look on the situation as being a case of divine intervention. I had been thinking about striking out on my own for a while, but I just couldn't pluck up the courage to jump ship. I guess I needed a push, and I got one.

Had I been working within the blue chip corporate, when this question came up, I wouldn't have been able to answer it, since I never got to see more than my little patch. it was a bit like being in a glass bottomed boat: I only got to see the patch of sea in my immediate environs.

Looking at the timing of the start of my solo venture, just as the economy went into freefall on a scale that made a blip on Everyman's radar, I can adopt one of two stances.

On the down side, L&D is always (foolishly, to my mind) the first thing to go, so organisations cut back on the learning provision to their staff. This means there is less work to be had, so the outlook might seem bleak.

On the up side. As the L&D budget gets cut, so - often - does the L&D headcount. Many companies choose to outsource instead. This is where I come in. Those companies with foresight look at ways in which they can encourage their staff to minimise the impact of the crunch on the bottom line. Sometimes they bring in people like me to help them. So the outlook might seem quite rosy.

I am not an economist. In fact, if there is such a condition as dysfinancia - I have it. I can't trot out models and forecasts and all that malarkey. I have to stick with things like ethos and values and all that intangible stuff.

One thing I have promised myself: no matter how tough it gets, I am not going to start being stingy with my advice and suggestions. I am not suddenly going to start charging people for sharing the benefit of my experience. I am not going to stop contributing to discussion forums where my perspective may be of help to people desperately trying to develop learning solutions on tighter budgets (or even no budget at all, in some cases).

And another thing (I am going to take a deep breath and say this 'out loud', because I have been through a rough patch in which my confidence has ebbed):

I am damned good at what I do!

I understand learning. I understand learners. I am unafraid to ask the difficult questions. I am unafraid to push back and say why a thing should be done differently (or not at all). I am ever ready to champion the cause of the learner and his/her perspective.

Hopefully, all these things will count in my favour. Hopefully, so will things like the fact that, when a client recently approached me for a quote for Articulate training, I told them that if I were making the call on behalf of their (non-profit) organisation, I would opt for the wealth of free resources available from Articulate themselves instead of spending money. And, if I were to spend money, I would opt for the training they provide, since they do so at a price I can't hope to compete with.

Hopefully my integrity will become a hallmark of my brand.

Hopefully I will weather this storm, because I have no desire to find that my principles have a price tag, after all!

Better than that, I hope to be able to help a few others weather it too.

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