Reimagining the L&D function at Lambeth Council

If you haven’t been following Andrew Jacobs on Twitter you have missed the story of L&D transformation. Jacobs is the Learning and Development Manager at the London Borough of Lambeth where he has reinvented the organisation’s delivery of L&D. He has narrated this transformation on his blog Lost and Desperate.

Jacobs has been tasked with delivering L&D with less and in a rapidly transforming organisation. Primarily, this has involved a fundamental shift away from L&D as a ‘training provider’.

You can see the journey in these posts:

LearnPatch caught up with Jacobs and asked him about his work at Lambeth and why he is blogging his work there.

Tell us a bit about your background
I’ve been in L&D for about 20 years. I started in retail banking, supported by a manager who noticed that I had the confidence to speak in front of groups. Over time I worked through a number of different training roles in a number of different industries – the Fire service, retail and local government.

I’d always felt an ‘itch’ in what we were doing; the language of learning practice always seemed like it was there to differentiate us from the business and I noticed this from my first training roles into the most recent.

When did you start to look at reworking  L&D delivery  at Lambeth?
We started thinking like this at the end of 2011. We didn’t fully form this as a way of working until mid-late 2012. We’re undergoing massive transformational change in my council so it seemed entirely appropriate to make it happen as part of our support for this change.

Do you have any indicators of success?
We’ll expect to start gathering stories of success from now; we’re adopting Success Case Method as our focus for evaluation. It’s a little complex but this sophistication is necessary to validate the results we get.

How  have you been able to get to this point i.e. your knowledge and experience?
I’ve been lucky – public and private sector, training and learning roles, the full range of roles from design and delivery to management and more strategic activity.

How have you  influenced stakeholders – got buy-in and taken them with you?
To get subject matter expert buy-in we offered them either:

  • A classroom based activity they would have to create, run, test, evaluate or,
  • Our new approach.

We found it easy to go to an SME, tap in to  their knowledge, sell the cash savings to them and their management, demonstrate the control they had over their topic area. Why wouldn’t you want to take that as an offer?

We expected line management to struggle to ‘get’ our concept…we sold them the fact their staff would be away less from the office. People don’t fear change – they fear what they lose as a result of change.  For the SME it was expertise; our approach acknowledged they’re the expert. For the line manager, it’s knowing their staff member will be able to perform better.

And what hasn’t worked?

  • Online communities. They take time to build and nurture. Our best is outside our learning platform on Linkedin with more than 50 members and a team of regular contributors. We’ll be hitting them harder in the next few months.
  • Untracking  – we’re funded by the public and the public have a right to ask where they’re money is going so we do get asked to provide number reports that demonstrate little value.

Why have you  blogged about the experience – there cannot be many people who have told the story of their L&D transformation in this way?
Because I can’t find another L&D local government blogger. And, unique is good. The whole principle of this way of working is peer-to-peer, informal, disruptive. Surely that’s what blogs do? It’d be wrong not to use blogs as a channel.

Also, my blog is a reflective practice for me. I have to role model it as practice and it’s been the easiest way to develop my personal learning network. I’m really keen to develop more transparent practice across our sector – we’re hit with the double whammy of being bound by L&D and bound by a local government mentality that makes us look inwards too often.

I’m constantly looking for people who are adopting new ways to do what we do. I can’t find many. I’m convinced the sense of provision within the L&D community and placing our worth on our ‘busyness’ is a limiting factor for this.

What does your work say about the role of L&D now and in the future?
I don’t want to be an exemplar, but I think a lot of what we do is how L&D will have to work in the future. A quick scan of Jane Hart’s connected L&D is like looking at what we do.

What are your reflections on the process for others in L&D who would like to do the same in their organisations or who are forced to do something similar?
Engage. Force every stakeholder to become emotionally attached with the change. You need positive and negative emotion to find how far you can transform.

Be creative, make a mess, mistakes, errors, incomplete activity. Count nothing except engagement, this can’t be measured simply in terms of completion; it’s bigger than that and evaluating through Brinkerhoff Success Case will give a better story of what works.

Channel everything this way, don’t fall back into provision.

Jacobs will be sharing his journey at Lambeth Council on day two of the forthcoming Learning Live conference – more here. You can follow Jacobs on Twitter (@andrewjacobsLD) and read his blog at Lost and Desperate.

[Picture credit: Tom Bastin]

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