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The Power of the Strategic Performance Objective

In one of our past LCD Practicums, we had a great dialogue around the elements of the Strategic Performance Objective (SPO), which is a key deliverable of the Change On-the-Job Behavior Action of the LCD model. The question emerged, “How do I make sure I’m making the most use of the SPO?”

In traditional L&D, we have typically defined our goals and our own success within the limitations of what can be accomplished in the classroom or by the end of a course. Why? Because not only is this what we feel we can control, but it’s also how the business has traditionally measured our value, creating an “order-taker” hierarchy where the stakeholders come up with learning initiatives, and expect L&D to execute and deliver on them.

When we look at how modern L&D professionals can transition from “order-taker” to “business partner,” we need to find the point of intersection where stakeholders, learners, and L&D professionals are in alignment. This is where the Strategic Performance Objective (SPO) comes into play.

The SPO is a higher-order objective that describes the linkage between the desired workplace behavior (not end-of-class behavior) and the benefits of this behavior for the business. In other words, it’s about the connection between the business strategy and the employee performance.

One of the main purposes of the SPO is to flip standard learning objectives into expectations. In order to do that, L&D professionals should think of the SPO as having at least three parts:

  • The first is using stakeholder’s words to describe the most relevant and powerful business impact they hope to achieve

  • The second is stakeholder’s goals for on the job behavior changes, but put in the language of the learner’s day to day work/life – this sets the expectations for the learners for what they should be applying if the learning cluster is successful

  • The third is the finished SPO combining both parts above, providing a clear expectation for the scope for the learning creator. The template for the SPO, in the Change Tool, shows you how to investigate, articulate and combine the two parts above so you know the goals and topic for your cluster and where to place your focus and energy for the design.

Whereas in the past our terminal and enabling objectives center on expectations for the learner on what they should “know” from the content, the SPO centers on defining the most important expectations for and from the business, the learner and the L&D professional.