It’s a debate that seems to be in a constant boil. Is it just me or does this feel a bit like Team Jacob (centralized wolf pack) and Team Edward (adventurous man of mystery) - where they both seem dreamy? Come on. Afraid to admit you loved the Twilight books, too?
Let’s look at Team Jacob. Those that advocate for centralization talk about the consistency, the economies of scale, the cost savings, and the transparency. Can having a centralized decision-making function for learning development save you money? Yes. Pat Smolen, ASTD Suncoast Board Member, found that her organization saved $3M in one year alone.
So why decentralize despite the possible redundancies, inconsistencies, and increase in costs? Well, Team Edward is happy to tell you. Clients talk about the benefits of being closer to the business, adaptive to the audience needs and responses, and the autonomy that seems to encourage unique solutions. In a time of the “customization of one,” who doesn’t want this? Perhaps your organization has fallen victim to the corporate university, seemingly impervious to the cries of business teams in the field?
And how do you, in a global organization, really meet the needs of unique cultures? What I’ve seen is that organizations have some sort of decentralization to meet the needs of disparate cultures. And if you are in a highly regulated industry where the rules vary by country or by state? That’s right, it’s another team again.
What I’ve noticed in serving my clients is the emergence of the hybrid model. We need to name it, right? Who could ever pronounce Edward and Bella’s daughter’s name anyway? It’s the idea of the global university approach with the consistency AND the decentralized needs. What needs to be unique to the lines of business? That seems to vary by client. Does the sales process need to be the same or is it culturally dependent, for example? It seems to be a matter of the preference of the leadership team and the business context.
Regardless of the organization, the key still comes down to effective line partnership. Many of my clients embrace the HR Business Partner roles. What are they? Liaison, advocate, negotiator. What else? Another client has established multiple line advisory boards – for areas such as technical training that meet the needs of the emerging workforce.
I’m reminded by a recent client conversation where the new VP of Learning & Development talked about how she has been able to be successful with a new L&D role in a new company within six months. How? It’s all about listening to the line leaders, learning their business, eliminating jargon, and leaving your own “HR” language at the door. It’s about combining models so that both Team Jacob and Team Edward can co-exist and thrive to meet the goals of your organization.