I’ve been reflecting on McKinsey’s notion of the business imperative in transitioning from supply chains to supply circles. With the concept of optimizing and sustaining the value along your integrated supply chain, the difference being a Supply Circle involves a looping process harnessing the productivity, output, and value created – another take on compounding interest, if you will. How can this thinking on material, environmental and cost-saving mean for investments in human capital and leadership development? Quite a lot I think, as the metaphor of Supply Circle invites you to connect the interdependencies within an ecology of programs, processes, tools, and stakeholders involved.
Engaging External Providers: From transactions to transformations
As indicated in the The Corporate Learning Factbook 2012, by Bersin & Associates, High-Impact Learning Organizations outsource more learning activities than others. This ability to outsource being driven through tightly aligned learning strategies, business-integrated governance mechanisms, and deliberate consideration of the requisite capabilities necessary within the learning function.
If you are leveraging external providers in gaining both efficiencies and effectiveness in your leadership development investments, are you delivering the value you expect?
Below are a series of inquiry sets, I have worked through in further enhancing the concept of a Supply Circle, in the context of stewarding a Leadership Development Portfolio:
1) What is the Learning Strategy?
Begin with the end in mind – What is the learning strategy? What inputs from customer analysis, industry dynamics, competitor analysis, sensing the external environment/marketplace, and recognition of internal realities mean for how the future state of leadership development in the business needs to be designed?
2) What Value needs to be created?
In the current state, what is the nature and quality of relationships with external providers? Are they transactional or transformational? What is the value provided from an expertise, design, content/curricula, facilitation, and technology standpoint – are providers fully working within their domain of excellence?
3) Which Network of Relationships will be most sustainable and effective?
Iterating from providers to partners – is this a firm that integrates and compliments other strategic offerings across the curricular portfolio? Will they be able to effectively contribute, collaborate, and partner with other firms and create more value collectively, than individually? (This is particularly important given the competitive landscape within the corporate learning industry). As the client and end user of solutions, does your vendor management strategy inform the strategic choices to make along the spectrum ranging from a single-source solution, to a multi-vendor partnering approach?
4) What does Success look like?
Nothing is more powerful than clarity of focus – Is there a framework of strategic drivers communicated to external partners? What focal points will guide strategic conversations in a two-way dialogue on uptake of leading edge practices in leadership development? Which metrics will be implemented to measure success/impact of leadership investments? Is a framework in place that sustains continuous improvement and innovative behaviors within and across external partners involved?
If you are leveraging external partners in your Supply Circle, then it is incumbent upon your learning function to ensure the optimization of investments made in accelerating leadership and talent development. Through experimenting in ways to deliver greater value to the business, I’ve seen value in thinking beyond your supply chain, and viewing the supply circle you manage. I don’t work with pipes. I work with people. The notion of the supply circle helps me envision how to run the learning function in a more dynamic, holistic, and sustainable manner, and to optimize those who I require in achieving that goal.