Their worlds and the laws governing them are completely different.
Coaching and most management and leadership (team) development are not scalable. Their maths are the maths of addition. How many people you coach, how many teams have become better and more aligned, or how many individual leaders have been skilled, determine your reach. When I say ‘non-scalable’ I mean something that could be of logarithmic growth. The only scalability of the above comes from adding more people to coach, more teams to align and more individual leaders to skill. Hardly an efficient formula to tap into a large population of employees. Those non-scalable interventions are of course of great value, but we need to be mindful of the limitations.
Of course the conventional thinking would say that by, say, coaching those leaders, they would lead their own teams better, so the impact is high. But although that may be true, that in itself is not a good scalable model. The impact has the boundaries of the next team down, and the next one. Nothing wrong with this, but we are still talking managerial ranks, not the entire organization.
Learning and Development (L&D) belongs to this world. It’s only scalable by addition.
Large-scale behavioural and cultural change, by definition, is a model of scale, or it would not be large-scale behavioural and cultural change. The Viral Change Mobilizing Platform sits here. Since behaviours scale by copying and imitation, and they grow by creating critical masses that become the norm (good or bad), this world is not the world of coaching or management development.
The maths here is multiplication. Some highly trusted and well connected people work through their peer-to-peer networks to create an internal ‘social movement’.
Culture belongs here. Cultures are not created in classrooms or L&D manuals. Leadership development does not create cultures. Leadership development creates leaders who, you would have thought, will contribute to the shaping of a culture. But if you want culture, you need large-scale behavioural change, not batches of leaders sent on a course in a business school.
These two worlds not only need to understand each other, but also they need to know their boundaries and the bridges between them. The key question in strategic terms is how much we push (or fund) for lots of non-scalable interventions and how much for a few of high scalability. And, of course, how to marry the two.
Nobody, I hope, would understand this as me saying that coaching or L&D are a waste. But I want to emphasise that many times we cross that bridge between the scalable and non-scalable world with eyes closed, hoping that some good will come of it and, miraculously, will impact on thousands of people.
In my world, scalable is the priority, non-scalable is secondary. For other people, the order may be the reverse. I don’t mind as long as human capital professionals know where they stand. Which side of the bridge. And, incidentally, make sure the bridge does exist.
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