Learning 2015

Learning 2015: Why senior backing is critical to L&D success

Two of QA's business services team, Giles Smith and Jamie Thomas, are attending Learning 2015 in Orlando, a global forum for learning practitioners. Read Jamie's thoughts from the first session of day two.

Jamie Thomas | 3 November 2015

Learning 2015

Winning in Beer!

So for those that think this conference is all Disney Parks and relaxing, let me set the record straight. Last night finished at 10pm and this morning was a 7.30am breakfast ready for the first session at 8am.

There were loads of sessions to choose from, but given the challenges that so many QA clients have, I decided to go for the session titled "From command and control to coaching: revamping leadership development". The fact that it was subtitled 'Winning in Beer!' had nothing to do with it.

Yolaund Sulcer from MillerCoors shared the challenge of developing leadership skills in production plants where up to 20,000 cans of beer are produced every day:

"It’s pretty noisy out there, the plant managers are focused on getting out the product. They just did not listen…no hearts and minds."

Developing leadership skills in production plants

Learning Integrated Supply Chain Leadership Way

The solution was a 3-phased development programme:

  • Engage to Act - help plant managers understand that they need to engage with their teams
  • Leading the Business - help them to think about the needs of the whole business
  • High Performing Teams - help them understand the key role of high performing teams

When the team developed the solution above they were really excited. They pitched it to senior management and…surprise surprise, they got push back.

Managing resistance



We’ve had other leadership courses….how’s this different?

Interest industry standards with MillerCoors culture and processes

We have so many other business priorities

Need to get senior leader buy-in and integration with business initiatives

How will we sustain

Top-down implementation; leader-led anchoring activities

Many of the senior management's concerns were very valid – they had invested in training in the past and it hadn’t worked. This is where Yolaund was smart. She realised that just as important as the content (they based the programme on the situational leadership model – motivation Vs ability to drive coaching style) that you are delivering is how you deliver it, when you deliver it, who supports it and how it is embedded. Sounds simple, but so often learning programmes are designed entirely around what goes on in the classroom (or webex, or eLearning, or video etc.).

Leadership presence is the key success factor

Learning 2015 What do you think we learned?

There was an overwhelming response to the leadership engagement. The plant VP’s supported the programme and spoke authentically about it; they essentially owned the programme. There is a point where they hand over the programme sustainability to the plant leaders (with accountability of course) as the HR leads are then responsible for tracking and checking that key elements are delivered.

At QA we get that content is key – but so is programme design, sponsorship and embedding. L&D teams cannot develop the operation unless the operation wants to be developed. So senior support, visible and on-going is absolutely critical to success.

More information

Most people know that QA provides courses, but we also run some of the UK's largest Managed Learning Services where our team of learning consultants help clients think through the practical application of learning.

Feel free to email me for more information: jamie.thomas@qa.com

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Learning 2015: How technology and big data are changing L&D

Learning 2015: 12 behaviours of a 'Jerk Manager'

QA Training | Jamie Thomas

Jamie Thomas

Business Services Account Director

As Account Director for our Business Services vertical, Jamie is tasked with working with QA’s largest clients, helping them deliver effective learning services which have a demonstrable impact on their organisation's capability.
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