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10 Strategic Approaches Exhibited by Training Management Leaders that set them apart? PART II

This is part II of the blog post I wrote earlier. Read Part-I of this post here:
Here are the remaining 5 traits of training management leaders which set them apart. Through extended research by conducting surveys and systematic analysis of profiles, CVs and career paths of several hundreds of leading training management leaders, several common patterns emerged.
6. Stays focused on integrating learning and knowledge management through training managementThe studies showed that the training managing leaders do not see training as a separate function within a company, rather they view training business unit as an integrating unit which connects the organizational learning and organizational knowledge as two interdependent functions.

In several organizations, while there are several avenues of knowledge generation and capture, they use the training department is the only source of channeling the correct knowledge to the correct audience. Studies revealed that training leaders continuously keep questioning how different business units inside the company are producing knowledge, how the knowledge so produced is being processed and how this processed knowledge is being made available to the audience though training department. Training management leaders value this channelized knowledge as the essential ingredient of the continuous learning at the actual workplace.

How does this observation benefit you?

To become a training management leader and setting yourself  apart from business-as-usual training managers, you need to pay attention to organization knowledge management infrastructure to develop and deliver robust organizational learning. This actually might mean stretching yourself out from training comfort zone and venturing into knowledge management domain to gain holistic exposure.

7. Consider training as costly but essential investment

Yes, that’s how leaders in training view a training program. Studies show that training management leaders view training as investment in people, processes and resources to gain business advantage. There is an interesting aspect to this postulation- if training management leaders consider training as investment, does it means that return on investment (ROI) must be their number 1 agenda too? Studies showed that this postulation is not correct.  Training management leaders have been seen not to be very fussy about calculating ROI. Further analysis shows that training management leaders use quite a bit of intuition and common sense as opposed to sophisticated calculation of the ROI of training. They have been mostly seen talking about cost of mistakes or cost of non-training to the company as opposed to monetary benefits of the training to the company. They basically focus on eliminating the waste, errors, mistakes and poor results as opposed to showing fancy numbers in ROI.

How does this observation help you?

Well, it is tough to acquire the visionary intuition. However, staying grounded in the fundamental premise of the training is a starting point. If you can show the financial cost of additional hours spent by an employee due to abscence of training, ROI comes intuitively to the executive staff. You don’t have to compute it for them.

8. Always stay infrastructure savvy

Research studies showed that training management leaders are extremely up-to-date with infrastructure which supports training, learning and knowledge processes. For them, it is the backbone of survival and staying competitive. It has been seen that they know the impact of delay in passing the correct training or information or skill to the employees. The training management leaders demonstrate understanding that correct media, correct platform and correct mechanism need to be deployed appropriately to achieve effectiveness in the training.

Whether it is LMS, video streaming platform, documentation delivery platform, field skill tracking or otherwise, they have the global view of the transactions happening at various layers and between various stakeholders to effectively impart the desired learning experience to the employees. That’s why most of the training management leaders are seen experimenting with new channels like mobile learning, just-in-time delivery, video based learning, social media and several other platforms enabling training and learning and constantly in a zest to bring best technology to equip training.

How does this observation help you?

In several companies infrastructure function usually is handled by different people, but then the competitive value of a strategic training is enhanced by the latest technologies, infrastructure and associated processes. Keeping pace with technology and infrastructure is critical for next-generation learning where most of the learning is happening in the workplace setting beyond the boundaries of the training courses.  If you need to bring new generation revolution, you better get on top of latest infrastructure and develop technical aptitude to appreciate, use and compare new technologies.

To set yourself apart from traditional training managers, you need to pay due attention on infrastructure and keep looking for transformations you need to drive. There is general tendency in established training departments that they are usually reluctant to change infrastructure if current infrastructure is giving nominal results.

9. Express opinions and develop media presence

Yes, this one of the interesting differentiator. Although training management professional turns leader in their daily job but establishing themselves as subject matter and strategy expert does not come so easy. The research study shows that training management leaders are very active in blog, social media and other content generation channels. Several of them are seen to be well-published too. Leading training management leaders usually present at well-known training conferences and their articles / papers are considered to be authority in their area.

How does this observation help you?

Simply get started with your blog, publish your articles, write about your best experience and if possible present at industry relevant conferences. Presenting in select webinars may also be a great. If you are good presenter (which I assume you would be) then YouTube video channel could provide you great presence.

10. Design robust performance support system for continuous learning

I kept this differentiator at the end. This has been seen in our research studies as the most powerful differentiators which has actually determined the business success of the training programs lead by these training management leaders.

The training management leaders not only focus on the reform in training function itself, but they pay particular interest in how an employee is going to be supported at the workplace once an employee has been trained, what kind of job aids, tools and other processes are going to support his performance in real-world environment and how is going to stay proficient. The fundamental premise here is that how an employee will be engaged in continuous learning. The training leaders transform the performance support systems in such a way that acquired skills eventually result in long term behavior change and learning at workplace. That’s how these training management leaders are able to break away the boundaries of training and become learning leaders.

How does this observation help you?

Next time when you are leading a training program, you need to ask the questions regarding performance support system available to the employee at the workplace when he is out of the training. You need to question how his manager will support him. You need to question the job aids and tools he will be equipped with during his real job. You also need to question how his performance is being measured in real-world settings. You may need to look at documentation, knowledge and infrastructure available to employees to perform their job effectively.

10 Strategic Approaches Exhibited by Training Management Leaders that set them apart? PART I

leadership in training

Are you a business-as-usual training or learning manager? Do you aspire to be a training management leader? I am sure some day you do. Then you need to read this.Have you ever wondered what set the leading and well known training management leaders apart from business-as-usual training management? I wondered several time and several questions like following continue intriguing me.

  • What differentiates them from common training managers or learning management professionals?
  • How they show leadership in managing large scale complex training operations?
  • How they drive and thrive projects?
  • How they view learning design?
  • How they lead teams and organizations?
  • How they plan, strategize and execute missions?
  • How they transform from simple training professionals to thought leaders?
  • What makes them the thought leaders?

Finally here are some of the mysteries. Through extended research by conducting surveys and systematic analysis of profiles, CVs and career paths of several hundreds of leading training management leaders, several common patterns emerged.

I am sharing with you very brief qualitative results in form of this blog. More results yet to come. First 5 strategic approaches taken by training management leaders is presented here in Part-I. Stay tuned for the Part-II

1. Stays current on next-gen research and practices in learning vs. using time-tested proven methods:

Studies show that highly successful training leaders tend to use ‘hot-from-oven’ methodologies and techniques without having to wait for it to get adopted by others. Successful training leaders usually advocate such early-research models which becomes industry adoption sooner or later.

Looking at training leaders’ bios, we find that they possess years’ long active participation in leading professional forums and engaged in research and practice in the area of training. Some of them have also shown extended association with academic world like universities or even journals too. It would not be uncommon for you to see training leaders possessing higher research degree or even doctorate.

How can this observation benefit you?

You may want to adopt this absolutely must-have trait of the successful training leaders. As a training management leader you would not just depend in time-tested techniques. Rather you will challenge the equations. If you are keen on developing yourself as a training management leader, why not associate yourself to some form of research?

The bottom line is that research in any form is a key success contributor to shape you as a training management leader. This enables training management leaders to bring new practices, BKMs and techniques to their work to gain competitive edge in the marketplace.

You may read some details in section 4 and 5 of my blog on expanding your portfolio here at:

I will elaborate some practical tips on developing research associations in my subsequent blogs

2. Thinks about of total learning design vs. instructional design

Yes, this key mindset differentiates the training management leaders from business-as-usual training management professionals. Studies show that training leaders tend to look at overall learning design as opposed to instructional design. Let me clarify how these two differs.

Total learning design looks not just at what needs to be done to design a course (which is field of instructional design) but it looks at whole spectrum of activities spanning over designing the learning environment, learning media, training infrastructure, learning enablement processes, learning transfer, monitoring of performance at the job as function of learning, post-training learning and performance support tools and linkage of learning with business result. This learning design also includes informal learning which does not come under instructional design.

While instructional design is absolutely necessary for training organizations, the learning leaders are seen focusing on end-to-end learning ‘experience’ design.

How does this observation benefit you?

If you are keen on developing yourself as a training management leader, why not start expanding your horizon of activities beyond instructional design?

3. Always in sync with the business needs vs. training needs

Studies show that training management leaders focus on customer or business needs as opposed to training needs. Although training may be viewed as an important mechanism to solve several organizational performance problems, however, training may not be the only solution for a given business situation.

How does this observation benefit you?

To become a training management leader, you need to expand focus away from thinking that training is the only solution in a given business situation. If you are an instructional designer, you may need to understand that designing a course may not always be the first solution. Larger percentage of your analysis, planning for a solution and recommendations may be concentrated on the business needs and may not even convert into a real training session.

You may want to read my earlier post regarding importance of aligning well with business needs in this blog:

I will elaborate practical tips in synchronizing yourself with business needs in my subsequent posts.

4. Uses process skills more often than project management skills

Studies show that training management leaders are more focused on processes rather than just projects. Training management leaders do not just focus on short-term gains and immediate results, rather they stay focused on long-term gains and continuous results. This continuous focus on quality and effectiveness is crucial success to success in leading training and learning projects.

How does this observation benefit you?

If you want to be a training management leader, you will need to take different approach to the projects. Your KPIs will be set of tiered success criteria which lay out in form of bands quality levels. Officially your project’s KPIs may just be achieving band 1 tier of success criteria. However, as a learning management leader, your focus is all the time on Band 1, band 2……band N quality levels which goes beyond the boundaries of your project KPIs.

You can read more about focus on process skill in my previous post at:

I will elaborate practical tips in using process skills for training leadership in my subsequent posts.

5. Plan for extended horizon vs. short-term open-close action status

Training and learning environment is unique in the sense that actions performed in this environment are usually not simple one-off “open/close” status of several actions. Rather it requires permanent fixes. To ensure results are reproducible, training management leaders are seen to build a culture of ‘permanent fix’ into their training operations.

The leading training management leaders have understood a basic philosophy very well that learning is a continuous process and it does not stop anywhere. Thus, learning transformation and learning improvements are not achieved instantly. It takes sometimes years to really notice the impact of certain project implementations.

How does this observation benefit you?

If you want to be a training management leader, you need to look at extended horizon of operations. For you targets will not be stationary and not just one. Rather it is a form of tiered targets or tiered success criteria.

For you even if a task status is closed for now, still you will continuously keep monitoring it and very occasionally you will keep raising the bars of improvement targets to next quality level.

I will elaborate some practical tips in strategic focus for training leadership in my subsequent posts.

Stay tuned for Part-II of this blog where I will provide some insight into 5 more strategic approaches observed from research which is seen to be adopted by training management leaders.


10-step guide for a New Training Manager

training manager

10-Step Guide for Training  Manager

TrainingForce blog has a nice blog on the 10 things a new training manager should do upon assuming his role. I am summarizing the 10 points specified in the original post.  Visit original site for the detailed information.

  1. hecIdentify your personal weaknesses and limitations with regard to the diverse roles of the training manager.
  2. Be sure you clearly understand the training department’s charge from senior management.
  3. Visit each site, each department head and ask “What’s your take on training?” Listen to the responses.
  4. If assuming responsibility for an existing training center, attend several classes.
  5. Identify the starting point.
  6. Establish a simple, clearly stated personal vision for the training center.
  7. Perform an audit.
  8. Form the first advisory group.
  9. Establish a prioritized to-do list.
  10. Develop an outline and timeline using the accumulated information.

Copyrights TrainingForce. 

7 Functions of Training Management You must know

Check this great article on 7 functions which are essential to training management role (Posted by CommLabIndia).

2 Characterisitcs of Highly Successful Training Leaders: Synergizing Projects and Operations


(image is courtesy of

You might already have been managing operations and projects in learning and training function. Have you noticed that training and learning management is actually successful management of operations and projects at the same time? The co-existence of the activities under these two characteristically different domains with equal intensity at same time has been making training and learning function a unique one.

I was reading this blog at and came across very interesting definition of Operation and Projects.

* Organization is the Parent

* Operations is the Responsible Elder Brother

* Project is the Flamboyant Younger Brother

During my research I found that successful training organizations leverage this unique overlay of operations management and project management and their success relative to their competitors depends on how well they drive synergy between these two domains. Such organizations have been using their efficiency in operations and effectiveness in projects to meet customer needs and at the same time drive radical improvements in their business effectiveness.

We also found that these leading organizations made it a point to instill powerful operations and project management skills in their training and learning managers. Most successful learning leaders have been seen to possess these two skills (operations management and project management) at same time and leveraging these skills to drive business.

Admit that this coexistence of operation management and project management activities is all pervasive in several other business functions as well these days. However, in training and learning management function the harnessing the power and success of these two domains is extremely important to overall business success.  That’s why I thought of writing this blog post.

Let me elaborate how these two domains are strategically interrelated.

Managing Operations Efficiently:

Operations are the ongoing, routine activities that are involved in the organization’s primary business. This is the “keeping-the-lights-on” work, such as staffing management, payroll, product production, service delivery, etc. As such, operations include all of the “normal” business functions.

Some of the examples of operations are: day to day job of offering courses, managing resources, securing trainers, assigning tasks to instructional designers, responding to customer inquiries, seeking feedback, handling escalations, providing guidance and managing team, attending meetings and request from connect business units, checking financial and budgetary standing, making strategic plans, managing facility and equipments among several others.

Talking to training and learning managers from several different industries we found that for most of them, their operations spanned across several business units, stakeholders, departments, contributors and activities. Several KPIs of wide variety associated with each operation. This makes the training and learning job highly dynamic and never boring for them!!!

The real business success a training organization is not measured by how well it can execute the projects (which are one time-off efforts) but by its operations in terms of:

–          How well it can run operations flawlessly to support internal and external customers?

–          How fast it can respond to customer needs?

–          How quickly it can accommodate to changing business situations?

–          How reliable and dependable its operations are?

–          How robust it is in the time of catastrophe?

This is just a glimpse of several different indicators that shows the health of the training organization.

In our research, most of the training and managers indicated that they spend 75% of their days’ time handling and managing operations!!!

Isn’t it amazing?

Some managers said they enjoy the dynamism in the operations and for other it was mundane job with nothing new. The later categories of the managers were more of project management mindset who enjoys time-driven challenges.

The size and industry of the organization make the operations even complex, random, and unpredictable and several times driven by need for faster response to situations, customer needs and business priorities. Skills required to manage and handle operations are sometimes underrated by organization’s management itself.  However, skills to manage operations are crucial to success of organization since the overall efficiency of training function depends on how operations are being held. The intertwined operations requires training and learning managers to be extremely good in multitasking, superb priority management, great in time management and most importantly ability to filter the noise vs. signal.

Therefore higher level of skills (believe me much higher than project management) are required to run successful operations. Certain level of breadth in skills is crucial for being successful in handling training and learning operations.

Managing Projects effectively

Projects are the adrenaline of the organizations which keep them thrusting forward to drive major improvements.

According to PMI’s PMBOK® Guide, a project is “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result”. Using that definition, a project is temporary in nature, having a defined start and end date, and produces a unique output. Projects are conducted as a means to obtain the organization’s strategic objectives and are considered above and beyond normal organizational operations.

The organizations highly focused on customer and improvement usually drive several projects. Research shows that established organization fundamentally implement a new operation first testing as a project. Highly successful projects results in implementation of long-term stable operations.

Examples of projects may be: facility consolidation, use of new technology, specific gap analysis, stop-gap arrangement, customized solution design, new implementations, cost reduction of operation and specific course development among several others.

Several training managers enjoy this aspect of the job because it provides them new challenges every now and then. These time-driven activities keep their interest level up. In most cases such managers are seen to have come from non-training background.

Our research showed that training and learning managers spend about 25% of their time in driving projects. It is definitely much lower than the time they have been spending on the operations.

Skills required to effectively managing the projects are universally known. The project management in training and learning domain is complex because of learning is a continuous phenomenon. I explained in previous blog how projects in learning are more of continuous efforts than one-time event.  Generally typical project management mindset training managers find it hard to relate to or stay interested in managing operations efficiently.

It has been seen that just strong project management skills are not enough for being a successful training and learning leader. Then what do you need to become a successful training and learning leader?

Managing both operations and projects efficiently and effectively

Let’s talk about success in operations vs. projects. How it differs?

project vs operations


(Image is courtesy SAP-Press)

PMBOK (2008) points out that both projects and operations have planning, executing, controlling stages and also both of them are performed by people and constrained by limited resources. So if these two concepts have considerable amount of similarities, then what makes a project differ form an operation?

Operations are ongoing and intended to sustain the business. They do not have any end date. As said before, projects are conducted to attain an objective and then terminate, organize activities that are not supported under the organization’s normal operations and are directly related to the achievement of the organization’s strategic plan. Thus it is very important to be conscious about time allocation on the both. Our research indicates that training managers typically spend 75% of their time on operations management and 25% on the project management. Since projects are time bound, training managers may need higher level of energy and focus to produce results aggressively.

Operational priorities may sometimes override project priorities. Both operation management and project management requires solid priority management and time management skills.

In operation, you are being measured for efficiency while in project you are being measured across several dimensions which includes quality, cost, schedule- in short effectiveness.

For projects you are accountable for certain part or the full project and therefore have your part in failure and success of the same. For managing operations you are fully responsible for failure or success of the operations. These are two different worlds to be in.

Research shows that managers having ability to convert project outcomes into long-term continuous improvement milestones are highly successful in both the worlds. They are not only strong project leaders but also strong training operations managers too.

Tips for you

Now you are stepping into a role which requires you to be best in both the world, you might want to take note of two tips to become a successful training and learning leader.

  1. Run your operations by converting it into processes to the extent possible. By mapping operations in form of processes, you can save your energy, reduce your firefighting and  improve overall efficiency. Read my previous blog on using processes, structures and systems to streamline operations.
  2. Convert your projects KPIs into long-term tiered or continuous improvement milestones and never lose the focus on how project outcomes can be transformed into standard operations or processes. Read my previous blog on this topic to focus on long-term continuous improvements while managing projects.


2 Different Styles to Manage Learning and Training Projects: What is your style?

training_projectsWhat kind of manager are you going to be when you start leading and managing the learning projects?

Let me share with you two different types of management styles you may come across in training and learning area. Suppose you have been given a project to improve some key aspect of your employees’ learning environment in particular settings. How would you proceed managing it?

In my research, two different styles emerged which are quite commonly adopted by training and learning managers:

1. Grow the crop and harvesting it: Project Management Style of Leading Learning Projects

With this style of management, you exhibit very action focused outlook. You will charge on to the project, start converting it into some achievable and measurable targets. You will also define some key KPIs which becomes the success criteria for your project. After all you want to be successful and want to see your effort becoming successful. Next, you will start building a plan which starts with dates and ends with dates. Sounds quite familiar. Right?

The philosophy that drives is that you the targeted improvement is a one-time target – that’s how you will be handling this project. Your project plan may involve several tasks and activities. You may be tracking each task with actions on it, consciously monitoring open/close status of each tasks. Your task-focus will help you close all outstanding actions well on time with minimal impact on the project schedule, resources, cost and quality.

That’s great project management leadership. Yes you can drive the project to a meaningful closure and be a successful training project manager.

Let me ask a question. When this project is  completed, is it really over? Is your work as training manager over yet? Yes, if you have been handling it as a project manager mind-set, But not yet, if you are a real training or learning manager.

2. Grow the tree and reap the fruits every season: Process Management Style of leading Learning Projects

With this style of management, you will still be displaying same level of great project leadership of earlier style. However, you will take a different approach which is much larger in scope and spectrum. Your KPIs will be set of tiered success criteria which lays out in form of bands quality levels. Officially your project’s KPIs may just be achieving band 1 tier of  success criteria. However, for you as learning manager, your focus is all the time on Band 1, band 2 …. band N quality levels which goes beyond the boundaries of your project KPIs.

For you targets will not be stationary and not just one. Rather it is a form of tiered targets or tiered success criteria. For you even if project is officially over, still you will continuously keep monitoring it and very occasionally keep raising the bars of improvement targets to next quality level.

Makes sense to your job?

In this mode, you will continuously keep evaluating the results and effectiveness of your project’s outcomes and keep continuously making adjustment in the associated processes in real-time which has impact on the originally achieved outcomes. To do so, you would not need to ask for another project scoping effort to drive next level of improvement. Your continuous focus will drive much more value addition to the business over and above what first approach would have added.

If you managing learning projects this way, you will be a manager who does not just focus on short-term gains and immediate results, rather you stay focused on long-term gains and continuous results. This continuous focus on quality and effectiveness is crucial success to your success in leading training and learning projects.

This sets your style apart when leading learning and training management function.

How does it sound?

What is your philosophy of leading learning projects?

During my research I came across several training and learning managers whose style was quite project management focused. They displayed great sense of action and mostly took most of the learning activities as one-time action with the focus on closing the actions which could give immediate visible results.

And then I came across several highly successful learning leaders who go beyond the borders of focusing on immediate open/close action on the tasks, but they actually leaped several steps ahead of project boundaries to produced repeatable, recurring, continuous results.

While first style is reaping crop once and harvest it, the later style is like reaping trees which gives fruits every season.

Now why so much emphasis on later style?

Because learning is a continuous process and it does not stop anywhere. Learning transformation and learning improvements are not achieved instantly. It takes sometimes years to really notice the impact of certain project implementations. Therefore learning projects requires key component of process management and continuous improvement tied closely with moving tiered targets rather than the stationary ones. Of-course with the constraints that targets keep moving upwards every next time.

So when you take a leadership role in managing learning and training function, what type of management philosophy you would take leading your projects?

3 Core Skills to Make Effective Training Related Decisions: Stakeholder Analysis, Stakeholder Communication and Stakeholder Expectations Management


Until now you may have impression that training and learning manager’s role probably required similar level of skills as needed by any other management role. Let me give you some insight that traditional stakeholder management training you may have got during your project management course may not really help you when you are taking up training management role.Let me share 3 skills you may need in your new role of training and learning management. These are:-a)      PERFORM COMPREHENSIVE STAKEHOLDER ANALYSIS

Do you know all your stakeholders? Do you know your instructor may also be an important stakeholder? Have you considered impact and perspective of your important stakeholders?

One of the unique thing which separates training role from any other management role is mix of stakeholders. Stakeholder analysis is not as simple it may look like in other management streams. Stakeholders may include Account manager, Customer manager, Marketing managers, operations managers, service manager, finance people, engineering and technical to name a few.


Do you have the plan how you keep all stakeholders on the same page? Have you updated all your stakeholders regarding a decision? Have you included and aligned well with all your stakeholders?


Do you have a strategy to manage expectations of all your stakeholders? Do you know reasonable and unreasonable expectations of your stakeholders? Have you clarified the expectations? Do you know who is participant and who is decision maker?

Let me caution you that, your new stakeholders will not speak your training language. Most of your stakeholders will be speaking a non-training language different from your language if you are a seasoned training professional. While the executives understand the language of ‘performance’ and not of training per se, your customers will speak the language of self-sufficiency and capability and most probably your service team will be talking in terms of revenues and numbers.

The complexity of stakeholders in training area may not be realized quickly but eventually this becomes a key capability you may need to become a successful training manager.

The reason why stakeholder management in training role is little more sophisticated than other management role is the complexity of decisions in the training area. Are training related decisions really that complex? Several budding training manager do not realize the complexity of training related decisions.

The decisions in training are not simple, although those look simple. Training, if is a core of support system in the organization, will lead to several chain reactions. A simple decision in training may have multi-fold impact on customer’s ability, customer satisfaction, and potential of gaining or losing the business, risk of losing know-how, strategies for market positioning and near vs. long-term strategy of the company.

Let me elaborate with an example. Suppose a large customer requesting for special type of courses which may be violating years of established policies of the company. Providing this special training to a customer may mean losing important know-how to the customer, it may also mean self-sufficiency of the customer and it may also mean potential risk of losing the know-how among several other things.

Now look at your stakeholders for a moment.

The account manager handling the customer on daily basis may be a stakeholder. He is more concerned about satisfying the customer needs, even though some of those may be unreasonable. He is concerned that his subsequent business from the customer may be affected by the fact how well he meets this request.  Your marketing guys may see it an opportunity to ‘sell’ a new solution or to make revenue from this request. However, the perspective your service contract manager may bring may be quite contradictory. He may have concerns over customer’s ability to go self-sufficient.

What will be your perspective as a ‘new’ training manager?

Let me guess. You most likely will be focused on what skills customer is interested in and how you are going to give that solution to him. Take a moment and ponder over this disconnect you may face with respect to the other business stakeholders. You may have conflicting opinions.

In your new role of training or learning management, you need to extremely conscious about this stakeholder portfolio and you need to connect to business needs and business strategies to be successful.

When you transition to a training management role, one of the key responsibilities you will have is to convert uncertainty into certainty. You need to run your training operations, projects, programs and team activities with very high degree of reliability.

As a training leader, to bring this reliability and clarity, you need to manage stakeholder analysis, stakeholder communication and overall management of stakeholder expectations in light of the business needs.

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Processes, Systems and Structures: Key to Reliable Management of Training Operations in Your New Role


When you transition to a training management role, one of the key responsibilities you will have is to convert uncertainty into certainty. You need to run your training operations, projects, programs and team activities with very high degree of reliability. How are you going to do so?

Your KPIs will be efficiency (how fast your training operations respond to customer needs), effectiveness (how well you meet customer needs) and quality (how robust your deliverable are). How are you going to achieve these KPIs?

Let me share with you 3 most important ingredients / elements of infrastructure you would need to manage well to manage training operations. Having a great handle on these three elements will make you successful training or learning manager who can deliver reproducible and repeatable results with reliability.

These 3 elements are:

a)      Processes

b)      Systems

c)       Structure

  1. PROCESSES: The “heart” of the training organization

Believe me: Processes are the HEART of the training and learning operations. Without these a training department will stop beating. Processes are very important ingredient of successful training operations. Training and learning environment is unique in the sense that actions performed in this environment are usually not simple one-off “open/close” status of several actions. Rather it requires permanent fixes. To ensure results are reproducible, training processes play a great role in building that culture of ‘permanent fix’ into training operations.

What is deemed as process? Processes are recurring and usually man-independent activity. An activity may be converted into process if it is required to be performed several times and several different people may be running the same. The reliability, repetitiveness and reproducibility of outcomes become very important for robustness and effectiveness of training operations.

The irony with any training or learning department is the range of processes it accompanies, no matter the scale of operations.  The processes are fundamental building blocks of any successful training and learning organization. The processes range from enrollments, scheduling, train-the-trainer, training request from customers, participant orientations, processes inside the classroom, processes for evaluation etc. to name a few.

The output of one process may be feeding into another process. Thus robustness of each of the process is very crucial for failure-proof operations.

How would you acquire this?

Well, this has lot to do with your own process orientation.  Some of the tips are:-

–          Develop a high level process map for the department operations under you.  Just represent the component processes as blocks to begin with. That will help you gauge the quantum and range of processes you and your team may be employing.

–          Given the amount of the processes you may have, it may not be really feasible for you to map out all of them in one go. Take it slow. Focus on the most crucial processes first, which may impact the company bottom-line results if executed with errors. Map those first.

–          Delegate the blocks among your team members to draft the process map or service blueprint of the processes they use very often with a focus on inputs and outputs. This will help you integrate it with high-level process you may create on department level.

Why process mapping is important? This will help you clarify inputs, outputs and failure-points of a process. This also helps you present your case for improvements to your team and to your manager.

Process orientation is extremely valuable skill in learning and training domain. Training and learning are continuous processes and thus a process-orientation is most basic skill expected from a training management professional.

  1. SYSTEMS: The “Mind” of the training organization

Training and learning processes are built around systems. Systems are interconnected building blocks. Systems in any organizations act as MIND of the organization.  Systems indicate how an organization or a BU will be operating.

Mostly systems are stable and expected to be stable. Processes are subject to improvement and change. However, processes work within boundary of a system or systems. Processes usually define what we are going to do with the information and how it will be processed.

The example of the systems you may have is: LMS system, customer management tracking system, etc. Usually systems and processes go hand-to-hand. Your training operations may have system of how customer training demand is captured or logged.  And you may have a process how you make decision on entertaining those requests. Thus systems are tied with processes.

In several instances systems and processes may mean same thing. Again, it also depends on what you view as system and what you view as components of the system. On one side you may consider your enrollment management system as system which consist of several processes like how someone will make a training request, how the training requests will be responded to, how the pricing of training will be computed to name a few. On the other side, you may call training re1uest logging “process” as a system if this acts independently of others and if you are simply using it to take the requests and process in some other system.

Nevertheless, you need to know that systems are the memory infrastructure for the organization and these are supposed to be stable and act as load-bearing pillars.

How would you ensure that your systems are stable?

The processes you defined earlier would help you. Now need to start thinking the connection of various processes within a system or among several systems. Develop knack for system thinking. This will help you assess how information flows in and out of the systems and will also help you assess the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of the training operations

  1. STRUCTURE: The “body” of the training organization

Structure plays a great role in putting systems and processes together into fully functional unit. This acts as the body of the training organization. Structure provides the clarity to the training operations. Very often your will encounter this question from your internal or external customer that “how are your solutions structured?” or “how is your training operations structured?”

When you split your customer training offerings in two tiers like basic courses and advanced courses, you actually create a structure. When you group your team members by project, you create a structure. When you assign one person for certain type of communication and interactions, you create the structure. In reality, structure may be all pervasive ranging from your team members, to your meetings, to your e-mail communication to your customer training offerings.

When you change the structure within a system or among several systems, it may have profound impact on the overall training efficiency and effectiveness. Processes and systems do help you maintain the reliable operations, but structure play an important role in operational efficiency. Processes and systems are basically carriers which help structure stay stable.

Thus the ‘body’ of the training operation is structure which makes the operations visible and tangible to the external and internal customers.  As a general rule by structuring the systems correctly, you can get rid of several redundant processes and overall operations will become reliable and repeatable. This will help you achieve efficiency, effectiveness and quality in training activities.

End note:

As training manager, one of the crucial responsibilities you will have to design and develop a viable structure how your systems are connected or arranged in doing your training operations and projects. Your goal will be to employ an efficient structure (or structures) which result in stable systems and effective hassle-free processes.

Some thoughts:

Note that literature may present different definition of processes, systems and stricture from several different perspectives.  There are few resources that provide some different insight into this.


5 Strategies to Build Powerful Portfolio of Training and Learning Achievements: Getting Noticed for Your Next Role


If you are planning to step up in training and learning management role, your previous experience as a trainer, instructional designer, learning specialist or HRD professional may not be sufficient enough to give you a strategic and competitive edge while bidding for a management role.You need to strengthen your portfolio. As an individual contributor you may have opportunities to work on various assignments to lead or to manage at your workplace. However, you would need a stronger profile to demonstrate the leadership in several domains.


Certification is one of the first steps you may want to take to build your portfolio. Earning certification will give one badge on your profile that reflects that you possess needed specialization. Note the difference between ‘certificate’, ‘certification’ and ‘certification that gives a certified designation’. You can choose any based on your budget, time you can devote and meeting the qualification criteria.

See my earlier post on range of certification options you may have a training and learning specialist.


Project management in general context is the most powerful skill training specialists and instructional designers have to have. Generally such specialists get plenty of opportunity working on projects independently. A formal training in project management may be helpful; but remember project management is all about situational skills and you may need real experience to develop that situational understanding.

  • General project management: To build your portfolio, first you need to develop solid project management skills while you are deployed on certain projects (areas may not matter). It may be as small as lead auditing the best practices of your peers. Once you have such opportunity, apply the standard body of knowledge to setup some plan and milestones and track the outcomes on regular basis to start building your project management skills. You may have to work very productively with your manager to bag such opportunities to taste the waters in a controlled environment especially where stakes may not be high. He may assign you a project ranging from managing an event for the team to a key customer training project.
  • Domain specific project management: Next, you should put some extra effort in bagging projects which matching your areas of interest where the results of the projects adds to your portfolio, evidences and real case experience. The opportunity may come in as simple form as doing a cost analysis for an internal and external customer. In training and learning domain, several times several allied activities may come in form of tasks.

You need to keep your ears and eyes open to see which task has the potential to be converted into project. You need to develop some knack viewing opportunities, gaps and threats as potential projects.


This is one of the easily accessible sources of developing your portfolio. Nature of affiliations will vary from memberships to volunteering, getting involved to board member of some not-for-profit organizations. Some examples may be:

  • Membership: Taking up membership of couple of really good training or learning related professional bodies is a good idea. You may consider the mix of local, global and remote (online) professional bodies. Choosing a global professional body like ASTD with a local chapter in your metro will be beneficial in long run in terms of developing contacts, participating in several learning events, networking with other members and potentially striking some collaboration. You may get a chance to volunteer in some of the chapter events and get noticed. If you are resourceful you may be able to get onto the executive council. That will add to your portfolio of management. If you are building your portfolio for next level role in management, then you better seek membership with institutes, professional bodies and associations who give you an edge over and above an individual contributor. Examples could be project management, consulting, learning management related organizations.  
  • Certification: Some of the professional bodies have stringent criteria to award the membership (example CIPD) which acts as a certification in itself.
  • Online Groups: LinkedIn groups may also help you a lot while you are sitting in your home. This is the time for the thought leaders and opinion leaders. LinkedIn groups are great place to establish your credibility as an influencer and a thought leader. This gives you opportunity to refine and organize your ideas and opinions before you post it or reply to ongoing discussion. This is one key skill you may need when you are stepping up to new management role.
  • Volunteering: Volunteering for getting involved in events of some organizations like PMI as a volunteer can give you good experience you are looking for. Taking an initiative to apply for opening a local chapter for a known professional body if the one does not exist in your city will stand you as leader in your area of expertise. If you are successful in opening the local chapter for a professional organization, it will actually give you superb managerial experience too.
  • Academic service: Register your profile for becoming member of editorial board of journals in your area of expertise. This will equip you with certain best practices which are not even in print yet.


Whether or not you have inclination for writing, you still may be able to find several avenues matching your skill set. Trainers and instructional designers usually have well-developed writing skills. However, they need to use their writing skills to build their portfolio for next level role. 

  • Discussion Forums: Very basic form of writing may be participating in Q&A as well as online discussion forums. This will not only help you organize your thoughts, opinions and stands but also help you build a noticeable portfolio of influence. Several employers are using your social media presence to assess level of value you can add to organizations and your professional standing in the community of experts like you.
  • Blog: Eventually you may want to setup your blogs. WordPress or blogspot may be useful website. This will help you build your portfolio of online presence and opinions slowly and slowly. Be careful what you write. Once posted on internet stays there forever in some shape and form. Your writings will be reflection of your professional expertise.
  • Articles & books: If you are good at writing, I suggest write few articles in the magazines or online blogs and even posting those on SlideShare kind of open repositories. If you already have written a lot, then why not pull all those together under SlideShare or Selected Works and build your portfolio there? If you are outstanding in writing, why not to write a short book?

 You might want to play it little strategically. If you are building portfolio to move into training or learning management role, you better write something about managing certain elements thereof.


Consulting skill one of the highly sought after skill in learning and training domain. As you will study the career path of highly successful training consultants, you would know that they were strong individual contributors at one point. The managers in training and learning domains are expected to have good consulting skills given the nature of today’s client oriented training business. Also managers are expected to be strong consulting leaders for their own team to bring new strategies, models, methods and techniques to their companies.

There are some avenues you may be able to get involved into easily and develop your consulting or advisory skills:

  • Volunteer Service: Join some volunteer training organizations where you can participate in some advisory services free of charge. Some organizations involve in youth education, adult training and community enrichment programs.
  • Mentoring and guidance: Several leading universities and educational institute constantly keep looking for qualified working professionals as career mentor for their graduates depending upon the credentials. Even the university you graduated from may also have opportunities as alumni. The mentoring usually involves guiding to-be-graduated students for career choice, employment search strategies, project guidance, resume review, and specific guidance based on their specialization. The commitment may range from few hours a month of commitment to few days a year of involvement.
  • Free training or consulting sessions: Deliver some free training sessions to groups you are associated with (like your community club, organization you volunteer for, your school or even your own team). From that point onwards you would see lots of enquiries coming for help. In the beginning it may find it tiring but eventually you would be able to convert these opportunities to polish your consulting skills. There are several agencies out there who would want to sign you when they hear you provide free training and they would want to have you on their rolls of associate trainers or consultant for their clients.

Remember that ‘telling is not consulting’ and counseling or advising is also not consulting skill. You probably need to deal it quite professionally to develop refined consulting skill which will give you an edge when you are stepping up for a management role.

End note:

You need to deliver with your key expertise otherwise you would get lost in the crowd. One word of caution if you are in a full-time job. You might want to join such activities as not-for-profit so that there is no conflict of interest with your employer. Joining educational and not-for-profit organizations which does not really bring a commercial gain for you would be advisable.

Stay tuned for more tips and techniques to prepare you for next role in management of training and learning.



How to select the appropriate professional certification in training and learning management?


In my previous post I taked about various certifications available to you if you want to give a strategic edge to your career in training and learning management. See:

Continuing it further, it is recommended that you chose a well renowned international certification or certified designation in your profession.  You may have to consider some criteria like:-

i) Specialization and sub-domain:

One thing you should know is that training, learning and performance field is interdisciplinary and that makes it quite wide. The list of subdomains it encompasses is quite endless. Just to name a few: training, learning and development, performance, human performance technology, consulting, instructional design, education technology, instructional technology and teaching, etc. Thus choose the certification sub-domain based on your current specialization or based on direction and specialization you want to go in.

ii) Recognition level of the certification:

Not all certifications enjoy same level of respect and recognition of the certification agency.  Nevertheless this is very important criteria. You would want to choose a certification which gives you a competitive edge when making a bid for next role. You need to choose a certification from a well-respected professional body so that you command same level of professional respect when you use it with your name.  Certifications from ASTD and ISPI generally command better recognition to a Langevin’s certifications.

iii) International vs. local reach:

This may be important criteria to see if certification you chose has the global reach or not.  Your own focus may also play a role in choosing it. Some certifications like ACTA from WDA Singapore may have local reach and recognized by the employers in that region and outside that region employers may not view it as an impressive credentials in spite of its rigor level. On the other hand CPLP by ASTD has global reach and corporate managers across the globe in several countries know about this certification very well.  Further, if you are working in China, your employer and peers may not be able to relate to a certification by Canadian CTDA. 

iv) Cost of attaining and maintaining: 

Nothing comes free. Some of the international certifications are pretty expensive and you need to see your budget. Cost may involve application fees, exam fees and recurring cost for renewal of the certification after the initial period of validity expires.  The cost varies from $300 to whopping $4000 for a certification depending upon recognition and depending upon how sought after the certification is.  

To maintain the certifications, certain professional bodies may require you to demonstrate that you have acquired certain number of learning hours per year by attending some relevant conferences, seminars, training courses or other activities. Attending a 2-day conference by ASTD may easily cost you over $1000 just for attendance not counting the air ticket and accommodation expenses. Attending a specific 1-day course relevant to your profession may come about $300-$700. Therefore be mindful about recurring yearly costs to maintain the certification and pay specific attention to CEU requirements. 

v) Time commitment for attaining and maintaining:

Most of the recognized certifications require you to spend plenty of time to read and comprehend the body of knowledge for that certification. Some of the stuff may be quite new to you since you may not have chance to practice these concepts in your current role.

Some of these may even require you to demonstrate certain number of hours of professional practice which you already may not have and may have to spend your time in acquitting it before you apply for the certification. The time commitment involves not only reading BOK, but also accumulating the necessary hours and preparing for evidences and references.

For credit based certification, you may have to complete rigorous assignments on time.

Also keep a note of time commitment warranted to keep the certification active.

vi) Validity Period and renewal:

This does not seem important to begin with but it becomes costly if a particular certification is valid for shorter period of time say 2 years and then it has stringer annual CEU requirements. It will add to your cost, time and efforts. You may want to choose a certification which can be active for a longer duration at the time of the award.

Stay tuned for my next post regarding how to develop and strengthen your portfolio and profile to increase your chances to make a switch to training, learning and performance management role.