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Jonathan Kettleborough

Corollis Limited

Managing Director

Read more from Jonathan Kettleborough

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The power and value of execution pt2


In the second of six articles, Jonathan Kettleborough continues his look at one of the key ingredients for a successful L&D department – the ability to execute and deliver on promises – and do this time and time again.

Let's assume you are working for an insurance business who is deciding to target the over-50s car insurance market as a new income stream. You have been charged with developing the learning for potential new products. You could take the decision to target the over-50s at face value or you could keep asking 'why?' Here’s how it could work . .

Business: We’ve decided to target the over-50s market as a new income stream

You: That’s interesting, why have you decided to do that?

Business: Because the over-50s have fewer accidents than the general population

You: Why do they have fewer accidents?

Business: Because they are generally far more careful than younger drivers.

You: I understand that, but why are they more careful?

Business: Two main reasons. Firstly they have ‘calmed-down’ as they’ve got older and secondly they are more cautious because they have more responsibilities such as families and good jobs. Why does having a family make you more cautious?

Business: Because people with families tend to understand the value of life and they know that they always need to provide for their family – if they get injured then their family will suffer.

You: So, as well as selling them car insurance, could we also sell the over-50s life assurance, or critical illness insurance, or hire car insurance or...?

Business: Yes we could – that’s a great idea.

You: OK, well we can look at working those scenarios into the training.

I appreciate it’s a fictitious – and simple - example but it does show how asking a few more questions gets you closer to the underlying issues and in the case above it also opens up other avenues to explore within the training. Once you’ve got all the needs and requirements you’ll put together some plan of action, and when you’ve done that make sure you do all that you can to stick to it. This means delivering at the right time, at the agreed price and to a superlative level of quality.

I’ve been involved in the L&D profession for more than 25 years. In that time the number of companies I’ve worked with who have really gone out of their way to deliver on time, quality and budget has been quite small. Delivering on your promises and executing as planned is a rare and valuable commodity – and one that builds enormous levels of assurance within your business and customers.

As Steve Jobs once said to the developers of the original Macintosh “You are all artists – but real artists ship.”  Steve understood the value of delivering - and delivering to delight customers rather than just being known as someone who talked a good talk.

As L&D professionals, there are a number of things that you’ll need to deliver time and time again. These may include:

  • developing courses or interventions
  • delivering training courses to customers, employees or both
  • coaching and mentoring
  • recruiting new members of your team

Can you honestly say, hand on heart, that you always deliver products and services that meet expectations? Probably not. Delivering products and services that continually meet expectations is a neverending task. According to the well-respected PZB Servqual model: Quality = Perception – Expectation.

Put simply, the quality that someone feels they get from a service is their perception of what they received minus their expectations. If their perception of the service is less than their expectations then the quality will be seen to be lower. Achieving the position of meeting the expectations of your business or customer is not easy; be very aware of that. Businesses have strived for years to achieve the almost magical position of being seen as a quality business, i.e. delivering what’s expected. Think for a moment what would happen to Apple if they were to deliver a shoddy product (which they did with their maps App) or to John Lewis if they were suddenly to abandon their focus on customer service in the pursuit of ultimate profit.

L&D professionals may sometimes feel that they’re in the product market; perhaps they’re selling pre-developed courses, authoring systems, other software solutions, or preconfigured psychometric tests. In truth though, we are all in the service industry and we mustn’t forget that, because in the service industry achieving consistent execution day after day after day is exceptionally difficult. We know and appreciate that the people landscape is changing at a constant and at times alarming rate. What was once leading edge is now the norm and you need to be able to alter your delivery to meet ongoing adjustments in expectations. A few years ago we would wait for decent service or for the right product – but not today - today the world revolves around speed and convenience and it’s about having everything now, and this is why execution is perhaps more important than ever before.


We've looked at the first of three key issues that L&D professionals need to focus on to ensure they execute flawlessly. This was 'always deliver to meet expectations'. As L&D professionals we absolutely must deliver on our promises. We must execute as planned, both in terms of time, resources and outcomes. It is no longer acceptable to be ‘close-enough’– we must deliver flawless execution – time and time again.

In the next section I’ll be looking at the second key issue in delivering flawless execution – making sure that your front line is empowered.  Before then take some time to review the delivery and execution of your L&D department – look at where you’re failing to deliver to expectations – and review how you might go about closing the gaps.

Jonathan Kettleborough has over 25 years’ experience in the learning and development profession. He has held senior positions and worked with clients in the nuclear, retail, financial services, stockbroking, business and technology services, telecommunications, government and integrated learning. Jonathan can be contacted via email, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Jonathan’s new book, Seeing Eye to Eye is available via Amazon and a number of other major online booksellers in hardback, softback and all major electronic formats

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Jonathan Kettleborough

Managing Director

Read more from Jonathan Kettleborough

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