Cutting through the noise to make a real business impact

Business needs aren’t static. If you’re going to keep pace, you need to embrace new ways of working. Hear how Dan Mitchell, Global Learning Leader at Marsh, has built an L&D team that can meet rapidly changing business needs. Find out why striving for perfection doesn’t lead to effective learning. Explore how to cut through the noise and make a real business impact. Discover the importance of letting go of control and creating effective partnerships.

Dan March Cut through the noise

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Don’t have time to listen now? Here are some top tips from Dan:

  1. Adopt agile approaches to keep pace: Business needs are constantly changing. Keep pace by adopting agile approaches in the development cycle.
  2. Reject perfectionism; embrace bad news: Striving for perfection slows you down. Get resources out quickly. Embrace feedback and iterate.
  3. Cut through the noise to make a real impact: Don’t add to initiative fatigue with another training course. Ask difficult questions and identify effective solutions.
  4. Let go of control and empower your learners: Create partnerships and build trust. Empower people to take ownership of their development.

Top tips for creating real business impact

1. Adopt agile approaches to keep pace

From transformative technology to global pandemics, lots of factors impact your organization. In response, business needs can rapidly change. And your L&D team need to be ready to respond.

When Dan started at Marsh, one of his key objectives was to reduce the friction in accessing learning and development. His team set up the Marsh Learning Hub. A one-stop-shop where people can easily find the right resources for their learning needs. As well as curating and categorizing existing content, they adopted agile ways of working to develop resources at speed.

“It allowed us to design and develop a variety of different learning solutions. We could do so without having to set up a statement of work for every single project. We did it in a very, I guess you’d say ‘agile basis’ with very, very short tight sprints. Having [the Hub] in place prior to that pandemic proved to be a godsend… We just basically shortened the development cycle.”

2. Reject perfectionism; embrace bad news

L&D teams have traditionally been risk adverse. A waterfall approach meant you had to complete each step to move to the next one. You couldn’t launch a course unless it was perfect.

Taking an agile approach involves abandoning these old habits. Striving for perfection isn’t useful. Instead of trying to avoid pushback from the business, Dan embraces bad news. He uses the OODA loop (Observe, Orientate, Decide, Act) to make his decisions. By getting resources out quickly, he can observe and understand any negative feedback. Based on this he can act and improve to create maximum impact.

“Bad news is the only news you can really act on. If you’re only looking for good news – that people love you and they’re giving you happy faces and five out of five stars and smile sheets and everything else – you might be doing something wrong. You might be measuring the wrong things. Or you might be doing things so slowly – being so methodical – you get out a really beautiful product at the end of your development cycle. But is it in time to actually have an impact on the business?”

3. Cut through the noise to make a real impact

Effective learning and development isn’t just about producing content. In fact, producing lots of content only adds to the noise that people deal with every day. If you’re going to cut through this noise, you need to provide the right resources at the right time.

For Dan, the needs assessment stage is key. He doesn’t see himself as a training order taker. Instead, he stays focused on the bigger picture and asks the difficult questions. By interrogating the problem, he can identify an effective solution.

“We have a problem, like a lot of organizations, with initiative fatigue. Because nothing is unimportant, right? And everything is useful to someone somewhere. But you’ve got to make the tough call…

Does it contribute to the noise or the signal? What I mean by that is, does it help people in the business focus on what’s important? Or does it just add to the noise that they have to deal with on a day-to-day basis?

More email, more training, more webinars, more virtual instructor-led sessions, more PDFs, all that kind of stuff. You’ve got to be very tough on yourself and realize that just because you think something is important, does not mean the business is going to value it.”

4. Let go of control and empower your learners

Matching the pace of the business isn’t just about adapting to change. If L&D is out of step with the business, it becomes a separate function. Fully in control of the process, but not necessarily giving people what they need.

Dan wants to reframe how L&D operates. By letting go of control and creating partnerships, he builds trust in the business. Empowering people to take ownership of the direction for their development. Working together to understand the environment and context in order to make better decisions.

“You’ve got to really reach out and create mutual trust with the business. Trying to control everything happening within L&D sends a message that you don’t trust the business. You don’t trust individuals to play a role in defining the direction that learning and development takes.”

A quick recap

Faced with changing business needs, Dan has embraced new ways of working. He has four strategies for creating impactful learning solutions at pace. Adopt agile approaches to keep up with the business. Reject perfectionism and embrace feedback as a tool for improvement. Cut through the noise by focusing on the areas which will really have impact. Let go of control and build partnerships based on trust.

Want to find out more? Check out the full podcast.

About Dan

With over 25 years’ experience in L&D, Dan has also worked for Kaplan and Mercer. As Global Learning Leader at Marsh, Dan is responsible for everything – from graduate and early career programs to leadership development.

You can find out more and get connected with Dan on LinkedIn.

On Dan’s reading list

Find out which book has inspired Dan’s approach to his personal and career development.

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Steven Pressfield

We all have goals we want to achieve. Whether it’s a business or personal objective, how can you avoid the roadblocks that stop you in your tracks? This book gave Dan insight into what was stopping him from trying new things.

Looking for more reading tips? Check out our book blog.

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