Longtime listeners of the Leading Learning Podcast have heard us talk about the Learning Business Maturity Model™ before. We’ve dedicated entire episodes to it in the past, covering what it is and how to leverage it. In this episode, we focus less on the logistics and specifics of the model and more on the purpose of the maturity model.
We explain how the model can be used by learning businesses for three interrelated purposes: dialogue, diagnosis, and direction. We also share how our latest offering, the Maturity Accelerator Program (MAP), can help organizations effectively manage this process and why using the maturity model is an inherent reminder that it’s not just about reaching a desired state as a learning business. It’s the journey to get there that matters most.
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[00:25] – Intro
[00:57] – Mature has many definitions, but one that has relevance for our conversation today is “having attained a desired state.” What we like about that definition is that it focuses on maturity as not as a defined final destination, a place you arrive and then settle in, but it couches maturity as a process to get to a desired state.
Often people get tripped up by the “arrival fallacy,” which is the idea that you will eventually arrive at a place where everything is essentially perfect, and no more effort is needed.
A big part of being mature is realizing that you never really arrive. You just evolve into new states that then present their own opportunities and challenges.Jeff Cobb
The True Outcome of Maturity Models
[02:48] – That future focus on a desired state is important when we think about the learning business. The desired state is the foundation for our Learning Business Maturity Model. The model deals with how we get from where we are as a learning business to where we want to be.
For those who need a refresher, the Learning Business Maturity Model articulates the characteristics and practices of a mature learning business as well as the stages that typically precede full maturity. It’s intended specifically for market-facing organizations that focus on lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development (versus corporate training departments or degree-granting programs, for example).
We developed the Learning Business Maturity Model and first released it back in 2016 because, over our years of working with market-facing learning businesses, we’ve seen common problems and issues and common opportunities for growth and improvement.
The Learning Business Maturity Model spans four stages of maturity:
- Stage 1: Static
- Stage 2: Reactive
- Stage 3: Proactive
- Stage 4: Innovative
In each stage, maturity is gauged according to characteristics and performance in five domains we’ve found to be critical to the success of the businesses we have been involved with over the years: leadership, strategy, capacity, portfolio, and marketing.
The most important outcome of the Learning Business Maturity Model, like all maturity models worth their salt, isn’t finding out what stage you’re at. It’s not about getting identified as Stage 1 or Stage 2 or Stage 3. The true purpose of a maturity model is helping you discover what to do to improve and move to the next stage. A maturity model should give you a learning plan, a guide that shows you what to work on to get better and to become more efficient and effective as a learning business.Celisa Steele
To learn more, listen to our earlier episodes about the maturity model:
- Episode 56: The Learning Business Maturity Model
- Episode 147: Leveraging the Learning Business Maturity Model
- Episode 243: Revisiting the Learning Business Maturity Model
Sponsor: Web Courseworks
[05:47] – To help your learning business improve and become more efficient and effective, you’ll need good learning technology partners.
Web Courseworks is a learning technologies company with an ever-evolving learning management system, CourseStage. CourseStage LMS is leveraged by organizations of all sizes to build a learning business and track education outcomes for proven success. Download the Web Courseworks guide “Four Ways an LMS Can Help Build a Revenue-Generating Learning Business,” and learn how your organization can leverage a learning management system to generate revenue for your learning practice.
The True Value of the Maturity Model Isn’t As a Diagnostic (Only)
[06:50] – Using a maturity model to find out your stage and stopping there reflects a fixed mindset. The real value in a maturity model comes when it’s used with a growth mindset and a learning mindset. Experiment with investments of time, money, and attention to figure out what leads to improvement.
See our related episode “Maximizing Learning with Mindset.”
This is not to say that a maturity model isn’t valuable as a diagnostic. The Learning Business Maturity Model has a lot of value as a diagnostic, and we’ve created an assessment to help a learning business understand its current stage. You can receive a link to the assessment by signing up for our e-mail list with the form below.
But diagnosis is not where all or even most of the value of the maturity model lies. The greater value lies in using the result of the diagnostic to guide discussion in the learning business and to determine future direction.
We see the Learning Business Maturity Model being used for three strategic purposes, which we’ve cleverly dubbed the 3Ds:
In our work with clients, we’ve had success using the model for all three Ds. Regardless of whether the formal assessment has been used, simply putting the model up on the screen during meetings with key stakeholders sparks useful commentary and insights—this is the first D, dialogue. Dialogue is often the foundation of the second D, diagnosis.
As we’ve suggested on many occasions, a solid diagnosis is really at the heart of good strategy. It’s also at the heart of identifying the operational issues that may be standing in the way of successfully growing and developing your learning business. When you combine diagnosis and dialogue, you are then able to arrive at a clear sense of that third D, direction.
The Maturity Accelerator Program (MAP)™
[09:17] – We say “clear” because we’re not just talking about generalities for that third D; we’re talking about specifically identifying the actions to be taken in key areas like strategy, hiring and succession, and general performance.
Those are big benefits to be gotten out of a relatively simple tool, but we’ve seen those benefits realized in organizations that have leveraged the model. The key to realizing the benefits is recognizing that this is a process, and some organizations are better than others at leading themselves through this kind of process.
This is a key reason that we have now introduced the Maturity Accelerator Program. The program is a structured, team-based approach to help organizations effectively leverage the maturity model in a way that aligns with their specific situation and needs.
Whether you decide to pursue the Maturity Accelerator Program or take a do-it-yourself approach, another benefit of a maturity model is that it helps to keep the organization using it balanced in a few ways:
- The maturity model balances dialogue, diagnosis, and direction. Each is important and has value.
- The model balances looking ahead and looking behind. It reminds us of where we’ve been and the experience that we bring along with us. Just as the adult learner brings her prior experience to learning, the same is true for learning businesses.
- It reminds us that we as individual learners and as learning businesses need to be well rounded, at least in terms of certain key domains of skills and knowledge.
Is Full Maturity Ever Attained?
[12:53] – When talking about learning business maturity, there’s some limitation to using human maturity as a reference point.
Human maturity gets me thinking about a lifecycle…. The decline is inevitable. But a learning business is an organization, not a living organism. And I believe learning business maturity can be on a continuously upward trajectory, getting better, getting more mature, if an organization does the work to understands what it needs to do to continue improving.Celisa Steele
That doesn’t mean that the path will always be up and the way will always be one of steady, linear improvement. The more typical situation is there will be slippage at times. Situations can change—a new competitor or a pandemic or the loss of a significant team member can send a learning business backwards.
There can also be changes that mean more than incremental improvement can happen, things that might result in exponential improvement and allow a learning business to leapfrog over a stage. This could be the elimination of a major competitor, reaching a significant new audience, or stellar new leadership.
And, because the Learning Business Maturity Model deals not just with a single domain but five, there might at times be mixed results.
Sometimes the way forward may involve backtracking. A tactic that worked well in the past may have stopped performing. The corollary here with learning is that sometimes we have to unlearn before we can learn.
So continuous improvement, ever-increasing maturity is a possibility, but the reality is it’s usually only when we zoom out that we see the trajectory is clearly up. When we zoom in to the daily level of what’s going on, then we see the little ups and downs. The main point, though, is that stasis isn’t an option.
You have to keep that growth mindset and always realize there is no final destination. There’s just the next step. We, as learning businesses, really must keep acting and growing to reach fuller maturity and to maintain where we are. Without continued learning and application, we’ll lose maturity. We’ll backslide, and ultimately our success and then, of course, our survival will be threatened.Jeff Cobb
[16:44] – We defined maturity earlier, and it can be useful to do the same with the term model. One way models are used is to represent or describe something that can’t be directly or easily observed. It’s hard to “see” a successful learning business, but a model can help us better understand how one works and what its core components are.
The Learning Business Maturity Model is a visualization, similar to a map, which is a type of model. It helps make concrete something that could otherwise remain abstract. So often strategic discussion can feel too vague, and decisions about where and how to invest in resources feel like a shot in the dark. The maturity model doesn’t provide all the answers, but it can bring a lot of clarity to the process.
If learning businesses were either categorically successful or unsuccessful—either/or—then we wouldn’t need a model. In reality, learning businesses are more or less successful—and more or less successful along a variety of dimensions. All of that becomes apparent when you use the Learning Business Maturity Model because it helps each individual in the learning business see the components of maturity more clearly.
More importantly, the maturity model serves as a point of reference for conversation. It’s what we characterize as a social learning object, something all of relevant stakeholders can react and respond to and, in doing so, work collaboratively to unearth the most relevant opportunities and challenges to be addressed. Using a maturity model as a social learning object gets back to the three Ds. It gives you something to dialogue about, and it gives you something that you can then use to diagnose your situation and to set direction.
Going back to the map analogy, it’s not just about the destination. It’s how you get there. (Note the acronym for our Maturity Accelerator Program is “MAP” because it helps learning businesses map things out.)
We aren’t saying that the Learning Business Maturity Model is the only way to get to learning business success. The point is to be thoughtful about how best to grow and mature as a learning business and then to put some stake in the ground and make some progress against it. The Learning Business Maturity Model is our attempt to do that.
[21:25] – Wrap-up
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