Until recently, I wasn’t too familiar with the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. I’d always dismissed it (or rather, the people in the story) as kind of absurd. I didn’t realize until I actually read it that the first person to pretend had a very logical reason for doing so, and once he made that choice, the rest of the plot fell into place like a set of dominoes.
See, there were two con artists who cleverly created the ruse by stating that the emperor’s clothes were made out of material so delicate and refined that if you couldn’t see it, you were either not qualified for your position, or you were a simpleton. So, person after person, not wanting to admit what they couldn’t see or be called a fool, lied until people started to believe that something imaginary was real.
Building skills in your organization is just like The Emperor’s New Clothes. There is a difference—and not a small one—between those with real skill development practices, and those with imaginary skill development who pretend their strategy will lead to real results.
I’ve spent the last three years creating skills strategy plans for companies of all sizes, and I’ve observed distinct differences between organizations that make real progress and those that struggle.
You’ll identify with some of the real practices, and also probably identify with a few of the imaginary ones, which are areas where you and your teams can improve. That’s normal and to be expected.
As you consider these scenarios, take inventory of where you are by grading yourself and your org on each topic. As you take inventory, you’ll see the exact areas where you need to focus, and you’ll be better able to implement initiatives that will move your skills strategy from “imaginary” to “real.”
Flow of learning
There’s a lot to unpack in this one.
Protecting formal skill development time is critical to success.
This is a law of nature. Having a “use it or lose it” policy when it comes to learning resources will only hurt your culture in the long run. Activity will decrease and the psychological safety of your entire org will take a hit.
Developing a real, effective skills strategy and a healthy learning culture is hard.
But getting to something real is worth the effort. The above-mentioned patterns and practices can serve as a starting point to the larger conversations (and work!) that need to happen. I encourage you to take these patterns, add your own and close those skills gaps.
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