It’s been almost 12 months since I returned to working independently. Very shortly after leaving my last role as an employee I started a two month assignment at Qantas to undertake a strategic review of the current state Learning and Development (L&D). It was a pilot focussed on three L&D teams which developed into a Group-wide review, and then into a transformation program. Twelve months later the program is well underway and several internal people have been appointed to Project Lead roles. It’s time for me to handover to the new Project Leads, complete some specific deliverables (including a learning technology road map and an L&D Capability framework) and to step back from day-to-day project involvement.
My primary task this week has been to prepare “handover packs” and start on boarding one of the new Project Leads. I’ve spent most of my time this week using OneNote to compile the handover information. It’s the same tool I used in September 2016 to finalise handover to my team at Coca-Cola Amatil. Again, I’m finding it a very versatile way of compiling history, current state, and next steps for a range of strategic and tactical work items. However, this post isn’t really about OneNote so I’ll move on.
This post is about the importance of having a documented history, something that captures the arc over time of how and why your strategy has evolved.
For example, at Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) I recorded how the Supply Chain Technical Academy had been set up in early 2012 with a mission to develop frameworks and programs to develop technical capabilities for new platforms that the business had invested in heavily over the preceding three years in order to ensure sustainable capability development and reduce reliance on equipment manufacturers. By early 2014 we had largely met that mission, and the business strategy had been refreshed to focus more on efficiency and business continuity. Our maturity as a learning organisation had developed, and our strategy expanded to include continuous workplace learning, with a particular focus on improving business continuity through knowledge sharing. As I approached the end of my time at CCA the business strategy was shifting again and it was unclear at that point how the capability strategy should adapt to best support this shift. The team member who was stepping into my role had spent a significant amount of time in Indonesia setting up a new Academy to support CCA’s local operations so there was a gap in his experience of how our strategy had evolved in the Australian operations, what had worked well, and the lessons we’d learned. I felt significant responsibility to bridge that gap as best as I could, and spent time telling him stories about what had happened in addition to writing up this history and preparing presentations that would help him to link the future strategy to the past.
When I started preparing handover notes for the Qantas project I was aware that there had been several key shifts in insight and direction over the 12 months we had been grappling with the question of how to set up a higher impact L&D operating model. And this was where I started – the arc of how and why the operating model had evolved. The past seven months in particular on this project have been a period of intense activity with well over 25 workshops conducted, a LOT of stakeholders engaged, and range of surveys and analysis of existing data sets undertaken. We’ve spent too little unstructured time just ‘thinking out loud’ and making sense of all of these discussions and analyses. Rather, we’ve been thinking on the run with a shifting cast of stakeholders. It felt like a sacred duty as the one person who has been involved in this program from the start to retrace the path and document it to inform the thinking of others.
We have such a bias to action, an emphasis on delivery, in today’s organisations that we make too little time to think – to look back and look forward, connecting the two, making sense of where have come from in order to inform where we are heading. This is as true of me as most people. I make too little time to pause, reflect, and record how I got to a particular point and how this links to where I am headed next. It’s time to reinstate and improve upon the personal quarterly reviews I used to undertake as part of my personal routine. Don’t wait until a ‘handover’ or transition point to capture where you’ve been – it’s a good argument to both work out loud on a continuous basis and also to periodically reflect on and record whatever is important to the ‘big picture’ in your world.