The current geo-political landscape aside, the topic of governance, with its advice, consent and oversight functions, remains at the forefront of discussions for L&D. In the book Running Training Like a Startup I cite a report done by NIIT and CorpU to find out how learning organizations have adopted the core principles of van Adelsberg’s and Trolley’s book. Two findings from the report which jumped out at me were in the area of governance. The study found that:
- The use of governing boards with C-level executives to ensure strategic alignment is fine in theory but has little effectiveness in practice. Sixty percent (60%) of the companies have them to some degree, but only 10% deemed them highly effective.
- The use of more tactical advisory boards, while slightly less prevalent (59%), are more useful in that 17% of the respondents deem them highly effective.
While this study is now aged, my recent discussions with clients have confirmed that this remains a sub-optimized tool for learning organizations. While many have a documented governance structure much fewer are gaining the benefit. Most of L&D seems to acknowledge the generally accepted three-tier model for governance. Executives form the strategic executive level with business heads and line managers operating in increasingly tactical functions in the lower levels.
Earlier this year, Training Industry Magazine published a “Learning Governance Framework Cheat Sheet” that had been developed by Kaplan. While fairly common sense, lots of “uh-huh and not a lot of “ohhh”, one pithy item on the checklist stuck with me as much for the pithiness as the “how?” questions that remained unaddressed.
“Construct a governance structure that is inclusive, agile, and commercially pragmatic with senior leader advocacy.”
I am currently working to expand the governance section of the book based on recent experience and research. But, for those that are currently operating advisory boards at any level here are a few questions worth considering. These are taken and adapted from a set that Jerry Colonna, executive coach to founders and author of Reboot, uses to assess the boards of startups.
- When the shit hits the fan, which of your advisory board members would you turn to and why?
- If your advisory board was your executive team, what experiences or temperaments are missing?
- What skills would you like to see on your advisory board?
- How do non-advisory board executives and managers view your current advisory board?
In today’s fast moving business environment L&D cannot fail to get the most out of this critical element of driving unmistakable value for the companies they serve. How are you using advisory boards and what challenges are you facing in getting the most out of them?