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ATD Blog

The Collective CLO


Wed Jun 13 2012


This is the last of four blogs considering some new descriptors of the great CLOs of the future. This one is more of a question than an assertion. What if the next great CLO isn’t one person but rather a group?

 The organizations we serve are becoming more flexible and networked. The roles we play are increasingly complex.  It’s been said that when you are a global leader, someone, somewhere, needs you 24 hours a day. That’s tough to handle.


But if the learning function were managed by a group of people, a federation who together are the CLO, that problem – and a lot of others could be addressed.  Competencies can be maximized. So can diversity of all kinds. Succession gets easier. (It’s a heck of a lot easier to replace one part of a team than to find a new world-class CLO.) So why not a collective CLO?

I’m not talking about simply decentralizing training. A federation as CLO requires a lot more than gathering the heads of training from around the organization. Every member of this new federation must:

    -Agree on a common philosophy, vision, and mission for learning

    -Set clear and consistent policies for how learning will be governed

    -Establish common models and standard processes


    -Eliminate redundancies, parochialism, and political conflict

    -Pool resources and leverage capabilities from different parts of the organization

    -Cooperate to drive change

In essence, to establish a federation as CLO means creating a robust system that enables the team to act as one. Such a system requires infrastructure. It will use technology, and that technology must exist throughout the federation. Likewise the communication system must be universal. And if a basic understanding of the concepts, context, and processes for a cooperative group like this is not well understood in the organization (especially among its leaders,) communication and education plans are needed.

Most often, the federation is going to have members from several countries, so budgets must cover international travel. The timing and location of meetings must be practical for all. Translation of key information has to be considered. And you may even want to add relevant cultural diversity training and/or international management training to support a global federation.        


Maybe you already have a collective CLO. Ask yourself:

1.    Does my federation have a clear organizational mandate?

2.    Can our members articulate our shared vision and purpose?

3.    Are members assigned collective responsibilities for all the federation’s major outputs? (Do they have ongoing, shared goals and interdependent tasks that connect them to each other?)

4.    Does a responsibility matrix set up relationships among members and is it clear to all which tasks and decisions need everyone’s input and which do not?

5.    Have communication channels and processes been created and are they routinely used? Do all members have access to all information relevant to the federation purpose and planned accomplishments?

 If so, you and your associates may already be the next generation of great CLOs.

John Cone is Principal of The Eleventh Hour Group. [email protected]

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