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What Makes a Great CLO? Managing the Deal.


Thu Apr 19 2012


Part of being a great CLO is the ability to manage the deal we have with those we serve.

Organizational expectations are complex.  In my experience, they can be grouped into five categories:


1.    Administer the Medicine

Do whatever is necessary to avoid lawsuits, fines, or other bad outcomes. Provide training and development that keeps us out of trouble and away from bad publicity.  When this is the deal, the primary criteria used to judge the learning function is EASE. What we provide should be, at best, invisible. What is visible must be quick, non-intrusive, and painless.

2.    Deliver Basic Capability

This is all about new talent. We train people to do all of the things the organization requires. It’s about basic skills and information needed for job success.  With this deal, we are measured on RESPONSIVENESS. Organizations don’t excel at anticipating talent needs, so by the time they recognize them, time is short. And we may be the ones who clarify and codify what is actually needed.

3.    Replicate Our Success Model


Over time organizations invent or discover preferred ways to get things done. Especially at times of growth or retrenchment, the most important work of learning is to replicate those models of success. This may be though ongoing development programs, or episodic, when new locations or divisions are in startup mode and whole systems must be replicated.  In these circumstances the critical measure of us becomes CONSISTENCY.

4.    Provide Tactical Support

The organization calls on us to help them pursue key goals. Training gets integrated into action plans. (Opening a new plant or implementing a new payroll system are examples.) Here the organization is apt to measure us first on IMMEDIACY.  Our work is integral to goal attainment, so whatever results we promise have to happen now.

5.    Strategically Partner

This is the job of supporting broadly based strategic initiatives. (Globalization, TQM, leadership.) This is the “seat at the table”, when we are part of the planning process, a key driver in the plan for success. Under this deal, we are most often measured by COMPREHENSIVENESS. Strategic partnerships are complex, and will typically require the full repertoire of our capabilities, all in sync and there on demand.


Most organizations will demand more than one thing. In large organizations, one division may have different expectations from another. And most organizations go through cycles, changing the deal to meet the times.

The deal is almost always implied, not stated. So the CLO must know what the contract is, and whether the organization thinks it is being fulfilled. It is a mistake (one I’ve made) to see the five categories as a hierarchy and to leave any behind. Meeting different expectations can require different capabilities and may even require different management systems, processes, or organizational structures. Great CLOs know this.

The art of the great CLO is managing the balance to meet the shifting deal.

John Coné is principal of The Eleventh Hour Group. [email protected]

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