Be the CEO of Your Learning Organization

Posted by Keith Forshew on Sep 28, 2015 2:33:01 PM

It’s fall, and for parents and students, thoughts have turned to school; in the business world, thoughts are turning to fiscal planning for the coming year.  As a key part of that business process, learning organizations need to be prepared to understand requirements and budget for the upcoming year. Manufacturing businesses use supply chain management practices to determine their future needs, and learning organizations can, too. By using a Learning Demand Planning model, learning organizations can build a better understanding of their overall fiscal needs.

Business plans spawn learning demand.  As your organization plans for the upcoming year, they will be creating initiatives such as:Woman CEO of a Learning Organization behind a desk

  • Business goals – company-wide and departmental
  • New product or service launches
  • Changes in the organizational structure
  • New sales models
  • Compliance and diversity programs
  • Changes in the corporate mission
  • Acquisitions or mergers
  • Cost cutting measures

Learning leaders need to budget for resources to meet the demands of the business for the coming year. Learning Demand Planning can close the gaps in a learning organization’s annual plan, allowing them to be more responsive, more efficient, and more cost-effective.

Good supply chain management processes drive efficiency by anticipating and understanding what the demand is going to look like for manufacturing and delivering goods, and then figuring out the best manufacturing and supply strategies to match that demand. You can use the same supply chain management approach to match supply to learning demand.

How do you plan for demand?

First, gather upcoming business demand for learning: determine current demand, review business goals, and estimate what learning effort is required to meet those goals. That information is processed through the Learning Supply Chain Model; the output shows periods of high and low demand, and can be tracked and revised as circumstances change.

Learning demand planning creates visibility and predictability. With a clear understanding of the annual learning demand and the resources needed to meet that demand, businesses can minimize duplication of effort and balance workflow by moving tasks from high-demand periods to lower-demand periods, smoothing out the demand curve. The end result is the ability to get more work done with fewer resources, reducing cost, time-to-completion, and stress and churn to the organization.

Understanding future demand can improve your resourcing strategy. Learning Demand Planning helps answer the questions:

  • How many resources do you need?
  • When do you need them?
  • How many will be employees versus contractors?
  • Do you need to outsource any of the work?

Fiscal planning for learning becomes easier with demand plans in place because businesses can accurately forecast the resources they need to fulfill demand and create efficient resourcing strategies to increase predictability and reduce cost.

Graph of an organization's learning demand

What are the challenges in demand planning?

Our clients have had several challenges with demand planning, including:

  1. Gaining realistic visibility: How do you go to your internal business units and ask them the right questions to determine their demand? Businesses don’t necessary know what their learning demand is going to be. You need to ask right questions and probe. For example, if the business is planning to enter new markets or deliver a new product or service, does that mean they will be hiring new staff or require new skills?

  2. Set priorities: You can’t always get everything they want. How do you help the business understand what is most important for their goals or where they will get the biggest “bang for their buck,” and prioritize that first?

  3. They don’t know what they don’t know: Your stakeholders may be missing learning needs that would be more obvious to a learning professional. Just because they aren’t asking for it doesn’t mean they don’t need it. This is where an outside view can be valuable, guiding stakeholders on the types of organization changes and initiatives that increase the need for learning and performance support.

As you go into your next fiscal planning period, take the time to analyze your learning demand and develop your plan for the future. You can increase quality, learner satisfaction, predictability, and decrease cost.

 Photo of Keith Forshew 


Keith Forshew is the President of PDG. Keith brings over 20 years of expertise building and leading global consulting and technology organizations, delivering top of class learning services to Fortune 5000 companies.



 Learn more about learning demand planning with the white paper Taming the Learning Demand Curve.

Topics: Flexible Resource Management, Learning Demand Planning

Creating the Learning Organization Structure

Posted by Amanda Holm on May 28, 2015 2:10:00 PM

How do you know if the design of your learning organization is accomplishing your business goals? In PDG's new white paper, “Creating the Learning Organization Structure,”  we explore:

  • How to structure a learning organizationlearning_organization_structure_cta
  • Benefits and risks of centralized and decentralized learning
  • What a hybrid learning organization looks like
  • The pros and cons of internal versus external capabilities

Here’s a preview of the white paper:


What is the right way to structure a learning organization? Should it be highly centralized, to allow for resource sharing and economies of scale? Highly decentralized, so the output is specific to the unique needs of different functions? Should it be a hybrid, incorporating the best of both worlds? Is there even a “right” way?

PDG has been fortunate to work with hundreds of learning organizations across multiple verticals, of varying size and complexity. This experience has allowed us to develop a series of considerations, trade-offs, and synergies that lead to best practices in learning organization design. In this white paper, we will provide a variety of situational examples, along with what we believe are factors that affect your decisions and what we believe to be best practice. Ultimately, the “best” design depends on your organization, your business, and your goals.

Perspectives on Learning Organization Design

Is there a “right” way to design a learning organization?

There is no absolute “right” way, no silver bullet. Each design has inherent strengths and drawbacks.

If there is not a “best” way, is there a “better” way?

Yes. Based on your organizations strategies and capabilities, there are design structures that are likely to work better than others. Structured analysis will help determine which alternatives are most likely to drive your goals. Issues you will need to evaluate include:

  • Making necessary compromises: You usually can’t have the “best” of everything. Given strengths and weaknesses, compromises are often needed and the final design is likely to be a hybrid of the best options.
  • Managing Tradeoffs: Decisions which way to go will need to be managed via the “levers” of leadership, decision-making, people, and processes.

To read more about creating the learning organization structure, download the free white paper!

Topics: Organizational Learning, Learning Resourcing,, High Performing Learning Organization, Flexible Resource Management

Life Sciences Learning Trends in Focus

Posted by Amanda Holm on Mar 3, 2015 11:15:00 AM

There’s no denying that changes in the world economy are having an effect on every industry. And the Life Sciences industry is feeling the effect like everybody else. As budgets for learning and development get battered from all sides, the savviest Life Sciences learning organizations have realized a simple truth: it isn’t about doing more with less, it’s about fundamentally rethinking the way learning and development gets done.

Stott & Mesch, 2015

PDG’s Ann Stott and Rich Mesch recently published an article in Focus Magazine, the journal of the Life Sciences Training & Educators Network. Titled Learning in Changing Times: 5 Trends in Life Sciences Learning, the article focuses on how changes in the Life Sciences industry are changing the requirements of an effective learning function. The learning trends covered include:

  1. Rethinking Product LaunchesFocus_Magazine_Cover_small

  2. A Return to Shared Services

  3. Demand Planning and Flexible Learning Resources

  4. Building Long-Term Sales Team Success

  5. Increased Focus on Informal Learning

Click here to read the article for free online. For more insight into the changing world of Life Sciences learning, read Ann Stott’s series on The Changing Face of Life Science Product Launch:

The Changing Face of Life Science Product Launch

The Changing Face of Life Science Product Launch, Part 2: The Launch Toolkit

The Changing Face of Life Science Product Launch, Part 3: The Role of the Learning Team




Ann Stott is the Vice President, Global Accounts at Performance Development Group. She leads the life sciences practices, focusing on pharmaceuticals, health care, biotechnology, and medical devices. Her extensive consulting experience is used to grow the PDG advisory services capabilities. Ann is an accomplished, respected, and energetic leader with more than twenty years of experience in the corporate training environment.



Rich Mesch


Rich Mesch is Vice President, Customer Engagement at Performance Development Group. A frequent contributor to industry events and publications, his most recent article was Taming the Learning Demand Curve: Using Supply Chain Methods to Manage Your Learning Function for Training Industry's online magazine.




Taming the Learning Demand Curve, 4 Smart Steps to Lower Cost and Higher Quality in Corporate Learning

Topics: Business Issues in Learning, Organizational Change, Informal Learning, Sales Training, Workforce Development, Flexible Resource Management, Product Launch, Life Sciences

Top Trends with David Manning

Posted by David Manning on Oct 20, 2014 11:37:00 AM

Learning Demand Planning and Flexible Resource Management

This is the second in a series of conversations with PDG Managing Partner David Manning where he shares his perspectives on emerging top trends in the business of learning. In this installment, David shares his observations on the use of demand planning and flexible resourcing in learning organizations.

Q: One of the trends you identified was Learning Demand Planning. What can you tell us about that?BusinessGraphicManagement250

David Manning: Like most business processes, learning organizations can benefit from demand planning. Organizations are struggling with the unpredictability of the demands on their learning teams. They find it difficult to staff to meet those changing needs. But annual learning demand can be mapped, and many organizations are doing just that.

Q: What drives the need for Learning Demand Planning?

DM: As organizations get larger they become less flexible and less prepared and equipped to deal rapidly with changes in market demand. They also become less able to deal with changes with external or internal disruptive forces. As they grow, companies need to have greater flexibility not less to be able to scale rapidly up or down pieces of their businesses to compete in the marketplace. More companies will be using Flexible Resource Management as a way to meet their market demand.

Q: So how is Learning Demand Planning put in place?

DM: Sometimes it feels like Learning Demand is completely unpredictable, but if you analyze it, you’ll see predictable trends start to emerge. You start by identifying predictable patterns to help understand demand trends—for example, seasonal demand, planned initiatives, new product launches. Then you look at Demand Smoothing, the process of moving tasks from the high demand period to times of lower demand. That allows you to identify Sustainable Demand Levels—the lowest level of demand that you will experience consistently. You want to staff your organization to meet that Sustainable Demand—it allows you to meet your day-to-day demand without spending money on resources that are underutilized or unutilized.

Q: But what happens when demand spikes and goes above the sustainable level?

DM: That’s where the concept of Flexible Resourcing comes in. By building strategic partnerships outside the organization, learning teams can add resources during high demand periods, then draw them down when the demand is met. This strategy actually allows organizations to get more done at a lower cost, since they never carry resources they don’t need, and they always have the right resources on the right assignments.

Q: Why are the concepts of Learning Demand Planning and Flexible Resourcing so important in today’s world?

DM: The past several years have been a time of change for many businesses. In today’s business climate of tight budgets, layoffs, and mergers, learning groups have a limited head count but unlimited demand for their services. By prioritizing their demand and optimizing the resources they have, learning groups can develop a strategy for managing that demand over time.

When businesses use flexible resources, they can move and shift resources as needed. The company can easily transfer staff from low to high priority projects to make sure the right work is getting done. Demand Planning means they have the most accurate forecast in place, the right work prioritization, and that the work is aligned back to the business strategy. With a flexible resourcing strategy in place, the organization can rapidly shift resources to make the greatest impact when priorities change. The flexible resource model allows organizations to add resources only when they need them and with tight budgets that is a big benefit.

For more about performance improvement read the following resources:

David Manning Photo



David Manning is the Founder and Managing Partner of Performance Development Group (PDG). David has over 20 years in the management consulting and learning outsourcing space, and has successfully led the growth of global organizations and start-up ventures. David formed PDG after serving as the Chief Operating Officer for a global training consultancy. 




Topics: Flexible Resource Management