Chief Learning Officer LO13740

John H. Dicus (
Tue, 27 May 1997 12:23:03 -0400

Replying to LO13725 --

>I trust you are up to speed on the current literature, the leading
>companies which have implemented chief learning officers, and the learning
>org. sites on the web........
>Vana Prewitt
>Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Dear Vana,

I don't mean for this in any way to be disrespectful or judgemental, but

I hadn't heard the term "Chief Learning Officer" before. That caught my
attention. It reminds me too much of "Director of Quality" or "Chief
Information Officer" -- each being well intended but playing out
oxymoron-ically in practice.

How would a chief learning officer function so as to reduce fragmentation
and help each person to be co-responsible for their own AND the collective
learning of the organization?

It seems to me to be pretty tricky. Often we see such efforts drive
wedges into an organization. How could we all help such well-intended
efforts manifest in enabling ways?

About six years ago, when I was working at NASA, the Aeronautics
Directorate began petitioning for a "Strategic Planning Manager." They
alleged that the Director of Aero was a good manager but "not a leader."
If only they had a "Strategy Czar," as they referred to it, all would be

Since I wanted to be anywhere in the organization except where I was, I
applied for the position and was chosen. I then interviewed every manager
in the Aero Directorate to get a feel for the situation. Within a few
weeks I accumulated many pages of information. But the thing that puzzled
me was that I did not have a collection of thoughts about research,
technology application, "market strategy, and so on. What I had instead
was a very thorough description of the health of nearly all of the
interpersonal relationships among the entire Aero Directorate leadership
body. In short they did not play well together. And I say this
respectfully. Each person taken alone was/is a very intelligent,
respectful, purposeful, caring person. As a group, they were nearly

The Aero Directorate consisted of about 400 men and women. No one needed
to tell them what was important or how to do their job. But the
Directorate seemed to lack focus, or purpose. There were many things they
could do that were important, but they couldn't do everything. To their
credit, but contributing to their consternation, they DID try to do
everything. To be all things to all people. The NASA myth -- as they
manifest their portion of the National Myth. They had an unclear picture
of their "proper" place in the entire Aero Industry 'system."

They did not need a "Strategic Planning Manager," I think (still
learning). They needed a clearer purpose and an enabling structure of
human relationships. The culture did not allow any conversation unless it
was decisive and "power heavy."

Thanks for the posting, and again apologize if my "awakening" seems

John Dicus

John Dicus |
CornerStone Consulting Associates |
Learning Organization Consulting / Facilitation / Training
Open Space Technology / Community Building
2761 Stiegler Road, Valley City OH 44280
800-773-8017 | 330-725-2728 (fax)


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