Did you know that a lot of white elephants roam the halls of our organizations? In fact, you may have had a hand in bringing them to life. Or you continue to feed them. Some of you, with a sense of disappointment, know those grand animals are still there, but that their time has passed and you no longer give them attention.
These white elephants are, of course, the large investments organizations make in technologies that never fully live up to the business requirements they were intended to meet.
The use of technology for increased efficiency and effectiveness to support strategic business goals is a common platform for change. In the area of learning technology, for example, the past decade has seen learning management systems become highly affordable. Organizations have invested in LMS systems with the hopes of providing alternate means to convey increasingly large amounts of knowledge and information to employees. The success stories vary but one key theme stands out for the white elephants – changes in technology alone do not enable organizations to reap the overarching benefits promised to them by the technology. Organizations must craft a vision of where they want to be, create a roadmap to get there, and use the learning technology strategically to catapult to that next level.
Before an organization decides to implement an LMS system, there has to be a well-articulated case. What strategic or operational needs are being addressed? What gaps in employee skill-sets need to be filled or enhanced? Resist the urge to buy an LMS system without first developing a clear understanding of the performance deficiencies in the organization. Then develop an implementation strategy and roadmap for the new learning technology.
Too often, those struggling to make sense of the investment fumble the implementation, unclear of the overall intent of technology and how to position it to address strategic business issues. Learning technology implementations must be carefully planned and executed through a well-defined project plan with clear lines of accountability and measurement. Leadership alignment around a solid implementation strategy will maximize the chances of successful adoption of the LMS system and of sustaining new ways of working.
Finally, new learning technologies cannot simply be dumped into the work environment without staff supports. New technology can be intimidating for staff who do not understand how it will change their routines and responsibilities. It is not sufficient to purchase the technology and announce that everyone should use the new system. A comprehensive business transformation approach with change management support is required. Help your staff understand not only how the technology works, but also why it is important to your organization’s day-to-day operations, and how it will address their professional development and learning needs.
Steve Jobs once said, “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” Implementing new technology comes with real risks and the potential to make mistakes. These risks, however, should not stop progress. True leaders view errors, mistakes and oversights as teachable moments that encourage further risk-informed innovation.
The important thing is to prepare your people for the anticipated change, and to accept that no major transformation has been conducted flawlessly. Monitoring progress enables the organization to celebrate success, identify areas for improvement, and share best practices with colleagues. This process is ultimately the accelerant to innovation and helps to keep the white elephants safely away.
Kate Morican is an Associate Partner with Deloitte in Ottawa (firstname.lastname@example.org). Major Denis Forest is a Training Development Officer at NATO School Oberammergau, Germany (email@example.com).
Enabling blended learning in the Canadian Air Force
“I intend to keep the pace [of the Air Force] moving forward…and continue to renew our capabilities.”
Over the past three years, the Department of National Defence (DND), the Canadian Air Force and Deloitte have engaged in a business transformation and change management initiative in support of the implementation of AFIILE, the Air Force Integrated Information and Learning Environment, which provides the Air Force with a single platform for managing, delivering and evaluating all aspects of blended learning.
The adoption of AFIILE has opened the doors to an innovative learning environment. Since 2008, Deloitte has advised DND and the Air Force on how to take advantage of common processes, identify and prepare key stakeholders, and implement the AFIILE platform while minimizing disruptions to the Air Force’s high operational tempo.
The success of AFIILE to date has been variable. It is however useful to learn from those pockets of success where the platform has been adopted. For instance, 403 Squadron at CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick has had success with AFIILE and attributes much of that to the following:
- A clear need to improve training delivery, in this case increase the throughput of their Tactical Aviation First Officer Course;
- A vision of where they wanted to evolve their training environment;
- Identifying and documenting how AFIILE could address gaps in or enhance their training environment;
- Bringing together the right team and resources to achieve identified quick wins; and
- Nurturing a “can do” culture to see the adoption of AFIILE to a successful end.