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Seb Anthony

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How do you decentralise an existing central learning & development team?


My existing team of 16 L&D Consultants are being decentralised into the business.

There are currently several small teams of business trainers within the business areas, managed by a Team Manager, who then reports into an operational manager.

My role as the L&D Manager is to manage the change process and integrate my teams into the business.

I'm interested to hear from anyone who operates with a decentralised model. I'm interested in how this works, including who reports to who.

Many Thanks
Tony Bulmer

4 Responses

  1. Personal experience only
    Hi Tony

    I’m sure there are loads of models out there but here’s three examples from my own personal experience.

    The first was being aligned geographically which meant that I did everything but within a specific area of the country. We worked with some off the shelf generic solutions and some bespoke depending on area needs.Gave me lots of experience and variety but it’s easy to become insular and isolated from the rest of the business.

    Second was being aligned to a particular business function. Could be quite narrow in terms of what we did, but enabled me to focus on specific needs and really get to know my customer.

    Third was working to a particular specialism but across all areas of the business e.g. management development. Enabled me to really hone my skills in a particular area but could feel ‘hemmed in’ to one or two areas.

    The common denominator to all three was regular meetings with the rest of the team (we used to meet every 4-6 weeks). Each member of the team used to take it in turns to host and chair a meeting in their geographical area.

    Hope that helps. Feel free to call me on 07766 422376 if you’d like to discuss any of these in more detail



  2. keep in contact
    Hi Tony
    As Sue has said what ever model you use – the linking of ‘like minded people’ via regular meeting is vital for peoples continued success and ro reduce any sense of loss with the de-centralization.

    I have used the web or matrix management type models in the past in this situation with great effect.

    I wich you well with the project.


  3. decentralisation of trainers
    I agree entirely with Sue and Mike.
    I would just add two additional thoughts. Firstly, it is a good opportunity to look at the role differently. Some years ago Keri Phillips and Patricia Shaw wrote an excellent book on the move from trainer to consultant (A Consultancy Approach for Trainers). At that time it was felt to be the preserve of senior, management trainers. But these days even technical trainers need to liaise with managers, develop bespoke solutions and deliver to an agreed specification. HR – a little behind the pace – is doing the same by adopting variations on Ulrich’s business partner model. I would view this devolvement as being ‘closer to the business’ in more than a geographic sense.
    The second point is a word of caution. I am generally in favour of trainers working hand-in-glove with the business but, if you are not careful, it is very easy for training to become merely reactive not proactive. To become purely operational and not strategic. To be overworked (lets throw training at everything now we have our own trainer) or underused (I know you are here to train but let’s put you on this project, just for a while). For trainers to ‘go native’ and lose the ability to critically challenge practices and performance issues.
    Because of that I would still hold the L&D strategy at the centre and keep the reporting lines through you, at least in the short term.
    Best of luck

  4. How do you decentralise an existing central learning & developme
    Dear Tony

    Learning and development seems to go through a centralise-decentralise cycle over a 10-15 year period, with a wave of outsourcing thrown in from time to time. The cycle time varies from organisation to organisation but broad waves of fashion are detectable. The current trend seems to be running in favour of decentralisation so you will not be alone in facing this problem.

    The key benefits that accrue from running centralised L&D teams are:

    1) The ability to apply consistent learning standards and quality assurance measures across the business or business unit.

    2) Elimination of course and resource duplication which can occur when training teams are embedded in business units and are separately funded

    3) The opportunity to streamline your approved training supplier list and gain better economies of scale through centralised purchasing.

    The Achilles heel of a centralised system relates to the visible nature of the total cost of training to the business. This represents a tempting target for cost-cutting accountants. The political distance from business units can also contribute to tensions with operational stakeholders.

    Your strategy needs to ensure that the benefits previously generated by centralisation are maintained when your teams activies are devolved into business units. If not, the tables will ultimately turn and the business will be forced to recentralise, wasting more time and money in the process.

    Merely creating an organisation chart with a ‘dotted line’ to a central L&D stakeholder will not be enough to counteract the empire-building influence of business unit managers who may well seek to guide their local L&D Consultants down an unhelpful and wasteful path.

    A centralised set of processes and learning standards will certainly be of value but these will only get you so far in isolation. Ultimately you will also need to rely on the good sense and professional judgement of your consultants to adopt and apply best practice learning standards whilst responding quickly and flexibly to local business stakeholders.

    Ultimately this means developing the professional skills of your L&D consultants to the level where you can rely on them to always make the right decisions even when you are no longer there to monitor and performance manage them. There are a range of elements within the Trainer Assessment Programme (TAP) that will assist you in doing this.

    Trust this helps.

    Best wishes


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