Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Branding Learning

Every successful business (and learning organization) must have a brand and a vision. If you are attempting to create a culture where learning is embraced, your brand is a critical component in structuring your business line. While the thought of visions and mission statements back in the 80’s were unique, they lacked purpose, and more importantly, execution. I can’t tell you how many “mission statement” meetings I have been involved in where executives were “hyped” and “charged” afterward, only to find that the vision was slapped on a poster in the break rooms and had very little meaning, value or impact on the organization. With this in mind, the vision certainly needs to state your values and your overall strategy, but more importantly, it needs to be in line with the company’s brand, growth and profitability objectives. This is also just as important at the departmental level. The vision and execution strategies need to be in alignment with the overall corporate vision and execution strategies as well.

The “brand” is equally, if not more important. I was tasked in developing a “learning brand” in my last two companies (Indymac and American Home) where employees would know that everything coming out of my group was consistent in quality, service, delivery and value. The “TPI” or “Training and Performance Improvement” brand was ultimately a brand that everyone in these organizations associated with the aforementioned characteristics. TPI supported distributed workforces in excess of 10,000 employees across the nation. While there were unique geographical and cultural differences within the business lines, everyone in the company became familiar with, and embraced a consistent experience from the TPI brand. This brand was often compared to the Starbucks® brand. Each Starbucks® store across the world has their own unique, cultural/environmental experience; the store furnishings, and Barista personalities may differ from store to store, but in the end, you walk away with the same cup of coffee.

Beyond the vision and the brand, the next task is to develop the key execution strategies; a holistic approach to learning that is in alignment with the business goals, strategy, vision and profitability objectives. The creation of these strategies at a very high level, along with granular detail in a Departmental Business Plan Strategy, is crucial to the success of today's professional learning platforms. Obtaining stakeholder buy-in along the way is also essential to keep things running smoothly.

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