Rewiring corporate learning #10: Know when to stick, twist or quit


In his concluding article in our series on rewiring corporate learning, the BBC’s former chief learning officer Nigel Paine provides some advice on how to survive as a learning leader.


This section is about personal survival. If you set out to rewire Corporate Learning you are not going to have an easy path. It may be your only option but things can go wrong as you will tread on a fair number of toes in the process.

When to stick?  
Stick means consolidate. Go thus far but no further. And sometimes you do need to stop and take stock; see where you are, and where you have to go to next. Stick when:

  • Key supporters are getting nervous
  • Things are moving slower than originally envisaged
  • You need to prove something before getting the budget or support to move on
  • You need to gather some data on what you have done and what impact you are making in order to take stock
  • Everyone needs to regroup and reenergise

When to twist?  
Twist means to press on, add to the pressure for change and see something through.  Twist when:

  • You can see the end in sight even if others can’t
  • One more initiative will prove the value of everything else
  • You have to show leadership
  • People are up for the challenge
  • You can minimise opposition
  • You have strong support in all the right places

When to quit?
This is the most difficult thing of all. How on earth can you distinguish between a local set back and something that is terminal?
So quit when:

  • The leadership of your organisation has become implacably opposed
  • It is harder and harder to get people to see and acknowledge what you are trying to do
  • The time is now simply wrong for change
  • You cannot secure any more resources
  • The changes up to this point are significant and this is a good time to call it a day
  • You have reached a point where you can do no more without additional support and resources
  • You sense that you are now on a hiding to nothing in terms of moving forward

Knowing when to stick twist or quit is as important in learning leadership as it is in the game of pontoon, even if the immediate impact of your decision is less obvious. It is worth reviewing those three options by using a simple framework: what is likely to happen if I do this?  How big a likelihood of success will I have? What are the consequences of not doing this. Weigh-up the answers carefully and make your decision.

If you do quit, remember there are plenty of other places out there who will be more respectful or enthusiastic about what you can do. Make what ever decision you have to make with your head held high.

Rewiring corporate leaning is a great thing to do and a fundamentally worthwhile challenge. Be proud of the fact that you made an effort and got someway along the track.


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