What Is a Carefully Planned Program?

A carefully planned program may mean many things, but our focus here will be on three key aspects to create impact:

  1. Design
  2. Plan
  3. Agreement on roles and responsibilities


1 | Program Design

To be truly meaningful, a program must be designed for impact. This begins with a proper performance assessment to identify the underlying issues and determine if learning has a role in addressing the challenge or meeting the need. Assuming learning plays a role, the appropriate learning assets must be identified and created. This may consist of e-learning pre-work followed by instructor-led training and capped off with a provision of performance support tools or enrollment in a community of practice. As good as this approach is, it is still not good enough to be impactful.

Even a well-designed program (as in the example above) that achieves high scores for participant satisfaction and learning may not be adequately applied. From the beginning, the program must be designed with application and impact in mind. This may include more practice time in the program or more examples of application. It will also require a plan to help the leaders communicate the value and expectations of the program to the participants. Even more importantly, it will require a reinforcement plan to help participants apply what they learned.

Many L&D organizations today are not structured to design or deliver this type of a holistic plan. Performance consulting, design & development, and delivery may exist as silos, and there may not be a program manager to ensure that all of the parts fit together. Furthermore, in some organizations, ILT program design is separate from e-learning which is separate from performance support so no one sees it as their responsibility to pull all the required elements together into one integrated program, let alone prepare a communication and reinforcement plan for the audience’s leaders to ensure impact.


2 | Program Plan

The second key aspect of a carefully thought-out program is the upfront planning of target values for all of the key measures. This begins by working with the goal owner to reach agreement on the expected or planned impact of learning on the goal. For example, if the goal is to increase sales by 10 percent, how much could a carefully planned sales training program contribute to the goal? The goal owner and L&D might conclude that a carefully planned program that is well designed communicated, delivered, and applied might contribute 20 percent to the 10 percent goal of increasing sales. In this case, learning is planned to contribute to 2 percent higher sales by itself.

3 | Agreement on Roles and Responsibilities

Reaching an upfront agreement is important for several reasons. First, the higher the planned impact, the earlier in the fiscal year the program must be completed. For very high impact, the program should come out in the first quarter. Second, the higher the planned result, the more effort will be required by both L&D and the goal owner’s organization. The goal owner and the supervisors in that organization need to understand that their time will be required for impact—not just to help design the program but communicate and reinforce it. Few programs are so impactful in their design and delivery that significant impact can be achieved without the active involvement of the goal owner’s organization after delivery is completed.

Planning for a high-impact program, however, doesn’t stop with agreement on a measure of success like impact. L&D and the goal owner also need to agree on plans or targets for the critical efficiency and effectiveness measures necessary to deliver the planned effects. For example, on the efficiency measures side, how many participants must complete the program by what date to have impact? What is the budget for the program, and is it sufficient to deliver the planned result? On the effectiveness measures side, what application rate must be achieved to have the desired impact? The higher the intended impact, the higher the application rate must be. A carefully planned program will have plans or targets set for these key efficiency and effectiveness measures, all designed to deliver the intended impact.

The last element in today’s discussion is agreement on roles and responsibilities between L&D and the goal owner. What precisely must each party do for them to achieve joint success in delivering the planned impact? L&D has primary responsibility to do the performance consulting, design, development, and delivery, as well as create plans for the goal owner to use in communication and reinforcement. The goal owner must assist L&D in performance consulting and design since they know their organization best. They also must make subject matter experts (SMEs) available in a timely manner. They will have the primary responsibility to communicate reasons for the learning program to their employees and their expectations that it be applied. And they have the primary responsibility ensure that it is applied. At Caterpillar we created a written document listing the roles and responsibilities for both parties to review with goal owners at the start of the engagement.

In Sum

In conclusion, creating a carefully planned program to deliver impact may not be rocket science, but it is much more complicated than it may first appear, which explains why so many programs fail to deliver significant impact. Keep these three aspects in mind when you design key programs and see what a difference they can make.

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