Some leaders would be puzzled by the phrase “learning operations strategy.” Isn’t operations something that by definition doesn’t change? Besides, how hard could it be to roll out learning programs and keep them running?

Any grizzled veteran of “LearnOps” will tell you that this point of view is far from accurate.

The tasks of acquiring, promoting, and maintaining learning content, managing learning events, and measuring the results in the context of global enterprise organizations are complex and ever-changing. Learning operations has dependencies that stretch like a spiderweb across HR, IT, legal, corporate communications, and all the business areas that the learning ecosystem serves.

L&D organizations are very focused on what is delivered—but how it is delivered lies at the center of the ability to create value for the enterprise.

The LearnOps function needs to continually adapt to the technology landscape and people strategy. To achieve that adaptability, it requires a strategy.

Freedom needs structure

Developing learning is a creative process; therefore, learning professionals seek the most freedom they can get. However, freedom without structure is no freedom at all. With no clear processes and no clarity around roles and responsibilities, L&D teams may spend most of their time mired in the details of learning operations instead of on the value-added activities they were hired to do. Having a learning operations strategy allows the L&D organization to elevate their work above the fire drills and workarounds that eat up all of their time.

What a learning operations strategy does

Since L&D is often considered a cost center, a learning operations strategy can offer guidance on controlling costs and accounting for spend.

Your learning operations strategy should, at a minimum, answer these questions:

  • How is learning content being created?
  • How are learning experiences delivered to the people who need them?
  • How are the results measured?
  • Who is responsible for these processes, and what conditions will indicate that they have been done sufficiently?

Developing your strategy

1. Scope

The first step in developing a learning operations strategy is to establish the scope. Will this strategy apply enterprise-wide or just for a single business area? Will it be a global or regional solution?

You have to limit yourself to the scope that you have the authority and resources to control.

This scope also includes what activities are covered by the strategy. Choose only the ones that will provide opportunities for impact without being time or resource drains.

Potential areas that can be served by a learning operations strategy include:

  • Request fulfillment
  • Material provisioning
  • Learning technology administration
  • Financial tacking
  • Event management
  • Content management
  • Vendor management
  • Compliance
  • Analytics

2. Expectations

The next step is to set clear expectations about what will be included in the strategy. Not everything is necessary.

Think about what artifacts will be the most helpful to your organization.

Potential deliverables for a learning operations strategy project might include:

  • Stakeholder pitch deck
  • User research
  • Current state process analysis
  • Learning ecosystem map
  • Glossary
  • Policies and procedures
  • Governance documentation
  • Change management and communication process

3. Needs analysis

Before starting the actual work, it is immensely helpful to understand the needs and concerns of both the senior leaders and the learning operations staff who will be affected by this strategy. Talk with people. Observe their work. Find out their pain points. This helps you to build a strategy that speaks to the people who will eventually have to implement it.

4. Find your champions

Introducing structure where it had previously been deficient is always going to be an exercise in change management. The first step in any change management endeavor is to identify a champion. This is critical in order to get the L&D teams to buy into the new process.

The foundation of your ideal learning organization

Most L&D organizations are decentralized, except perhaps in HR, legal, and IT. To make sure that everyone is heard but also that everyone agrees to comply with the process, it is necessary to build a federated governance model. This will assure your stakeholders that the strategy will have staying power and is worth investing their effort in.

A learning operations strategy provides the foundation on which you can build the learning organization that you and your stakeholders have dreamed of.

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