ATD Blog

Talent Development and the Future for Organizations: Part Two

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Future of Orgs
Defining and justifying strategic planning purposes requires an ideal vision. 

Organizations are a means to societal ends. We are judged, correctly, by the extent to which we add or subtract value from our shared society. There is an overarching vision—what I have termed an ideal vision—to which any organization that expects to contribute and survive must add measurable value.

Basic, useful strategic planning is the ability to use a societal value-based set of criteria as the primary definition of what an organization’s mission should be. Speaking broadly, an ideal vision should drive all organizational purposes to create the kind of world we want for tomorrow’s child. How can you develop and plan around such a vision, practically speaking?

My research across cultures provides a basic definition of the ideal vision based on the perceptions of people, almost worldwide, who were asked to define, in measurable terms, the kind of world they want to create for tomorrow’s child. The consensus that emerged was:

No person will be under the care, control, or custody of another person, agency, or substance. There will be no losses of life, nor elimination or reduction of levels of well-being, survival, self-sufficiency, or quality of life from any source or intervention.

Any organization must add measurable value to the ideal vision. If it is not, then it will become extinct. This is an imperative for all organizations, public and private. It is self-defeating for an organization to develop talent and deliver products that don’t add value at all three levels of organizational results:

Kaufman Figure 1









The most productive place to start is to design talent development strategies that create value at the mega level, and then roll down to define the other two levels of results. In other words, develop talent in a way that adds value to society as a whole, as well as your organization. This forms a results chain and aligns what we use, do, produce, and deliver with societal value-added. Then, based on your observations of this results chain, the data exist to sensibly define (and justify) means—training, development activities, programs, projects, courses, curriculum, and methods. Along with the means, you may sensibly define the inputs—the resources such as staff and talent, materials, buildings, facilities, policies, and laws—to get the desired and required results.

Based on the above rationale, following is a suggested framework for your organization’s mission objective.

For starters, the mission objective will provide the guidance for what each part of the organization must use, do, produce, and deliver. Your mission may be derived from needs at each of the three levels of results (mega/societal, macro/organizational, micro/individual). Therefore, organizational success is defined and justified by aligning these three levels of results, and talent development will be based on the needs selected from this process. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Aligning Three Levels of Results 

Kaufman Figure 2

A Derived Objective for Talent Development 


This imagination of the future demonstrates how the ideal vision can roll into an organization’s mission objective, and from there into an organization’s specific program for developing useful and productive talent:

By the year 2024, every professional member will have full access to valid, individually responsive, and useful learning opportunities, including information, delivered in an appropriate place and time, by effective and efficient means. The learning opportunities and training they receive will add value to each other and the organization.

The learning opportunities will provide them with the skills, knowledge, attitudes, and abilities to continuously improve their self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and quality of life. They’ll increasingly become responsive and responsible workers, and be able to make contributions to themselves—in the workplace, in their lives, and in our shared world, as we move progressively toward our shared ideal vision.

Each learning experience will have been designed, developed, and certified as having valid content and as being cost-effective and cost-efficient in the achievement of performance objectives. The delivery of learning opportunities will be through channels of communication selected based on a cost and results analysis, and will provide positive return on investments for all stakeholders.

The progress of learners will demonstrate contribution to the institution’s mission objective and meet all certification, accrediting, and professional requirements. 

Why Should You Do Strategic Planning to Ensure the Usefulness of Talent Development? 

The approach suggested may be different from the conventional wisdom of strategic planning and management in organizations. It is often outside of many professionals’ comfort zones. But we must change if we are to be responsive and responsible. And once we decide to change, what do we change to? The answer to that question is the product of useful strategic planning and thinking. Only then will you discover that the tools and methods for major change are waiting at your fingertips, because you have a plan and a goal.

We are experiencing a shift to a new paradigm of measurable and justifiable performance and societal value-added. We can be masters of crucial change by defining the future we want to help design and deliver, and then creating it. If we don’t, we can be the victims of change, by waiting to be washed over by the demands of change without either the control of it or the resources to be responsive to it. The decision is ours! And our talent’s and our organization’s future success is at stake. 

Recommended Next Steps to Complete Your Strategic Plan Based on Ideal Vision 

  • Identify and select a representative strategic planning team, including internal and external planning partners. Seek partners who are willing to commit to shared goals over personal profit or power. 
  • Identify needs at the three levels of contributions—societal/mega, organizational/macro and individual/micro, and from these derive the mission objective. 
  • Obtain commitment to the mission objective. If any of your planning partners or stakeholders want changes, make sure that the changes are evidence based, and are in measurable performance terms. For each performance requirement in the accepted mission objective, collect data on the gaps between what is and what should be. Make certain that performance data are collected at all three levels of results: individual performance, organizational contributions, and value-added to society. 
  • Obtain planning group acceptance or revise as required. Include the leadership and key planning partners as you build a consensus. 
  • Place the needs in priority order based on the costs to meet the needs and the costs of ignoring them. 
  • Develop a tactical and operational plan including schedules, fiscal resources, personnel, buildings, and equipment. 
  • Design talent development objectives, methods, and delivery based on the mission objective. 
  • Obtain approval from the internal and external planning partners or revise as required. 
  • Implement. 
  • Track progress against the performance requirements and revise as required.  
  • Determine value-added for the implemented strategic plan and identify what should be continued and what should be changed. 
  • Continually collect performance data to decide if and how the strategic plan should be revised.

When the strategic planning framework is accepted, and endorsed by key stakeholders, the above can be further defined and developed. This approach will assure that the talent you develop will be competent and committed to individually and collectively add value to themselves, others, the organization, those the organization serves, and our shared ideal vision of a better world.

About the Author

Roger Kaufman, PhD, is professor emeritus at Florida State University and a distinguished research professor at the Sonora Institute of Technology (Mexico). Kaufman is the recipient of a U.S. Homeland Security/U.S. Coast Guard medal for Meritorious Public Service. He has also been awarded the International Society for Performance Improvement’s (ISPI) top two honors: Honorary Member for Life and the Thomas F. Gilbert Award. He is a past ISPI president and a founding member, and is the recipient of ASTD’s Distinguished Contribution to Workplace Learning and Performance recognition. Kaufman has published 41 books and more than 285 articles, including Needs Assessment for Organizational Success (ATD Press).

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