Reflections on #lrnchat: What is Holding Us Back as an Industry?

Each week that I am able to participate in #lrnchat discussion I post a summary of the discussion to my blog. I do this both for my personal development as well as sharing with the Learning and Development Profession at large. This summary is based on my own interpretations of the chat; others who participated may have differing opinions or interpretations of the discussion. I welcome those that do to add your ideas to the comments.

The topic of this week’s #lrnchat session was “What is Holding Us Back as an Industry?.”

I always find looking at the questions that are used to loosely guide the chat as a nice way to see the overall theme of the chat. Here are the five discussion questions that were presented to the group:

Q1) What is holding us back as an industry?
Q2) What is holding back your organization?
Q3) What is holding you back as an individual?
Q4) What is needed to set your organization free?
Q5) What is needed to set *you* free?

Key Learning Points

The #lrnchat discussions are an excellent source of development for L&D professionals. It is one of many resources we can use to develop our skills, add to our knowledge, and help continuing to move ourselves and our profession moving forward. This week’s discussion looked at the other side of that coin; what is holding us back?

The discussion first focused on what is holding back the L&D profession. Our industry needs to become business focused in every aspect. Our work needs to provide value to all of our stakeholders, be there investment be financial support or their investment of time via participation. We need to get away from the widget-based metrics of the past and focus on the impact and value our effort have on critical business performance.

Next we focused on what is holding back our organizations. I found that many of the obstacles discussed regarding our organizations were directly tied to the obstacles focused by our profession. One of the more common themes discussed was the continuing battle with organizational silos. If departments continue to manage their own learning and performance issues in a vacuum, how can the organization possibly reach their overall performance goals and objectives?

From there the conversation migrated towards what holds us back as individuals. There were a number of challenges described, from resources to time, and from knowledge to empowerment. Ultimately though, almost all of the items shared were shackles we choose to wear. Even if they were placed on us by someone else, we have the power to choose to take them off.

The discussion continued with what would be required to set the organization free. There were a number of options shared, all of which shared one theme: the L&D group can not set the organization free by itself. We need the assistance and support of others in the organization, from senior management, to middle managers, to front line. Setting the organization free requires changing the organization’s culture, and that takes time and buy-in across all levels.

The discussion concluded with what would be required to set *you* as an individual free. I was a little surprised to see a number of responses to this question that suggested things that we don’t have control over, such as bandwidth, budget, and other resources. I go back to my shackles analogy from earlier; when it comes to breaking out of the shackles, I want to be the one with the key. If I have to wait for someone else to give me the key, I could be waiting a very long time.

Unfortunately, the answers to these question are not that different than the answers you would have received five or ten years ago. I think that many of those who participate in #lrnchat are, by nature, forward thinkers, and are likely ahead of the curve in these areas. In order to get our profession to move forward, we need to find a way to get those who are not early adopters to jump on the train. That would change the perception of the ‘norm’ for Learning and Performance programs. If we can do that, many of the obstacles individuals and organizations encounter would be eliminated.

Throughout the discussion ideas and strategies were shared that can help learning professionals adjust to the shifting landscape of workplace learning and performance. Whether you are a novice learning professional or a more seasoned professional that is looking to help build a bridge for novices, you will find many great ideas shared in the discussion. As always, you can find the full transcripts at

There are always at least a couple of tweets that resonate well with the topic and seem to really strike a chord. Here are a few that stuck out to me from today’s sessions:

On what is holding us back as an industry:
@Quinnovator: lack of evidence-based practice, lack of recognition of the need to look at ‘big L’ Learning: perf support, social, and more
@wilko64: Not understanding who our learning audience is and why they WANT to learn. Not understanding Knowledge work skill needs
@britz: We are often the barrier – we talk learning too much and not enough abt performance, execution, revenue..etc

On what is holding back our organizations:
Poor execution…lack of communication…oh, and silos…damn you silos!
Money was holding back my org until I realized how to use FREE as a business model.
@TriciaRansom: Guts, time, $$$, resources (or lack thereof), lack of energy

On what is holding us back as individuals:
@smklausner: Easy to rely on the familiar
Not connecting with you guys enough. Forgetting I’m not alone.
Organizational “rules”
Being honest here… Fear of not being taken seriously if I try the crazy things I dally want to.

On what is needed to break an organization free:
“If it is to be, it can not be just me” via @marciamarcia
Higher level champions who will encourage and reward wise risk taking.
@JaneBozarth: cooperation from the middle layer

On what is needed to break *you* free:
@Catherine_Delia: Participating in a chat like this opens new avenues for ideas.
I find I do best work when I have tight constraints. Forces me to be innovative and focused.
If what you need to set yourself free needs to be provided by someone else, well, you’re pretty much screwed.

In my past Reflections on #lrnchat posts, I have ended the summary with what I consider the most thought provoking tweet of the chat. I’m going to cheat on that pattern a bit this time.

For me the most thought provoking tweet came not during the chat, but the morning after from @britz: last nites #lrnchat left me wanting. Good Q’s such as “What’s holding you, industry, & org back?” But wish we added “what R u doing abt it?”

That’s a perfect way of summing up my thoughts on the chat as well. As with learning, knowing something isn’t what matters; it’s applying that knowledge in a constructive way that matters. Perhaps we’ll cover what we’re personally going to do to break free our shackles in a follow-up discussion.

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