Chief Learning Officer LO13754

Benjamin B. Compton (
Wed, 28 May 1997 09:59:38 -0700

Replying to LO13740 --

John H. Dicus wrote:

> 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?

I think John makes some very valid and interesting points. We just went
through the ISO 9000 certification process, and were certified on our
first external audit. To get us ready for the audit we created a
Continuous Improvement Team (CIP), which was made up of one person from
each department within the division.

It occured to me, very early on, that if I were to be successful as
Quality Manager, everyone in my department would have to be committed.
People could not come to associate quality with me; they had to associate
quality with the work they did everyday. I decided that I would be a
silent quality manager: I would exert my influence quietly and carefully,
always pushing responsibility to the people in the department.

My strategy worked well. We were certified. But because of my approach,
management didn't think I did anything and relieved me of my duties. I
succeeded at my task, and I did it well. But I didn't do it in such a way
that I protected my job.

A Chief Learning Officer? This doesn't make sense to me. Know one can
learn for me; I have to accept responsibility for learning, both as an
individual and in a group setting. If a Chief Learning Officer were to
have any practical impact on an organization, then I cannot help but think
it should be an invisible position with the sole purpose of pushing the
responsibility to learn to the people in the organization.

Too often I think we confuse leadership with a dynamic, charismatic, and
energetic display of effort by one or more people. That is a form of
leadership, but not the only form, and often a very bad form. For me
leadership comes from a group of people doing what they need to do to
survive and thrive; not from the direction or wisdom of a single

Ben Compton
"Friends are the ornaments of life."
Phone:  (801) 222-6178
Fax:    (801) 222-6993

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