• Date May 02, 2017
  • Author Eric Vandersluis

I’ve spent the majority of my adult life in and around learning and development. I’ve seen it from a variety of angles: as a high school teacher, as a university administrator, in fortune 50 organizations and as a consultant. I’ve learned a lot from each of these experiences (too much to detail here), but the one observation that sticks with me most, from the high school classroom all the way through to the corporate boardroom, is that intentionality matters. Benign neglect doesn’t work, especially when it comes to learning, development and personal change.

We don’t learn and grow without being intentional…thus we don’t change without intention, and yet, despite this, so many of us walk throughout this world without consideration of how to reach our idealized self. There’s no plan, we leave it to luck. We look to organizations and others to help us grow and we get disgruntled when we don’t see progress, or when that next opportunity passes us by. The world is changing rapidly, it’s moving at an unprecedented clip. You can’t afford to be neutral. You must be intentional.

In his intentional change model, Richard Boyatzis lays out a strategy for how we can use intention to grow and change, ultimately moving toward our idealized self. This model, starting from an idealized view of who you want to be (5-7 years out) then moving through a realistic inventory of where you are today, provides you with deep insights into how to be intentional in your efforts to grow, develop and change. It is exceptional for individuals who have the desire to grow and change, it activates us both emotionally and physiologically to move toward our idealized self.  It helps us create a deliberate learning plan and makes the space for experimentation and course correction.

The challenge of the model for many is moving from self to system. As organizations have come to be our primary association for adult development and growth, they hold a role in helping people work toward intentional development and change. Creating a system that supports growth and development doesn’t have to be overly complicated, or even more importantly, overly costly. With the right intentionality, you can build out a truly developmental organization framework that aligns self to system. Boyatzis’ model is a good place for learning and development leaders to start.

The Boyatzis framework ladders up to the organizational level, and with a little additional support, learning and development leaders can create an organization that promotes a model for growth that aligns the idealized version of the organization to what’s really happening on the ground. The challenge for organizations is in re-conceptualizing its role in the development framework.

In the new frame, there are three pillars of accountability for organizational growth and development- not new in and of-itself, but the emphasis of where ultimate accountability lies, shifts from the organization to the individual.

3 Pillars

  1. The organization- needs to provide the framework and processes in support of learning and development.
  2. The manager- needs to provide candid, honest and timely feedback to the individual, while also organizing work in support of both the organizational needs and the individual’s development.
  3. The employee- most importantly to the triad, it is the individual who needs to take deliberate and intentional action to learn, grow and develop.

Development doesn’t just happen in a classroom, it happens across 4 dimensions (Bersin helped develop a frame for our reference):

  1. Environment- the culture, systems and tools you work with and within
  2. Exposure- learning from others and being exposed to new ideas
  3. Education- the formal learning that takes place in classrooms or on-line
  4. Experience- this is where the vast majority of our development occurs- and yet, it’s the one that is most left to chance

When we frame development as a broader set of activities, it shifts the emphasis from the organization owning the full spectrum of development to the employee working on how to grow and develop through a number of frames. We open up the aperture for development and growth and make it more relevant to what’s happening on the job and in the moment. We create a new understanding alongside a new set of capabilities. When done with intention, we can learn to change and grow, both individually and organizationally. The world is moving rapidly, you can be swept up and taken by the current, or you can learn to chart your path and your future. In the end, the choice is yours, just be intentional about it.