Subscribe to My Feed   Follow Me On Twitter   Join Me On LinkedIn   Friend Me On Facebook

Using a Learning Council: Case Study-Part I

Case Study: Using a Learning Council to Ease the Move from a Decentralized to a Centralized Learning and Development Group – Part I

To read about how to create and launch a learning council, see a previous post, Best Practices: Creating and Launching a Learning Council.

This post will focus on a case study of an organization that had a strategic objective to move from five (5) decentralized learning and development (L&D) groups to one (1) centralized L&D group. The reason for the desire to move to a centralized L&D group to manage training company-wide was based on the need for:

  • Increased efficiencies
  • Improved customer service
  • Expense reductions/cost controls

Research showed that by consolidating the L&D functions, the company would see an improvement in how training was managed within the organization. Given their significant growth over the last few years, and expected growth based on significant investment money, L&D was becoming a focal point for the organization.


The organization, which we’ll call Harper Energy Services, is primarily in the energy sector and has global operations. Each of the 5 L&D groups oversaw training for the various functions (operations, finance, manufacturing, etc.), working in silos and not sharing information among each other. Each group was led by a manager and his/her staff included: a training coordinator, a scheduler, a project manager, a course developer and an instructional designer. (For a total of 30 full time employees in the L&D groups.) Contractors were brought in when needed for larger projects since the various L&D groups did not share resources.

The organization has functioned this way – 5 separate L&D groups – for about 10+ years. The decision to have separate L&D groups in the beginning was to provide better support for the various functions by ensuring they had dedicated L&D groups. In the beginning, the groups worked very closely together and shared information and resources. Over time, due to increased demands on the L&D groups, they started to function in silos; not being able to rely on each other for resource support and eventually no longer investing the time to meet regularly and share information.

As economic times forced the organization to look very closely at how they could be more efficient, one of the “easy” areas to review and take action was the L&D groups, which, in the eyes of many executives, certainly could be combined into one centralized group to reduce costs. They set a one year plan for the consolidation to occur. It should be noted that reduction of costs did not include employee salaries – the goal was to retain and redeploy resources to other parts of the organization.

The Plan

The human resources group recognized that this was going to be a difficult consolidation. The various functions within the organization were used to having their own L&D group and, additionally, HR wanted to find a way to proceed with the mandate to consolidate from five groups to one group in a way that preserved jobs for all employees and was a smooth transition. The one year time frame certainly provided them time to ensure a well thought out plan.

The overall project plan developed included creation of a learning council which would be responsible for development of the:

    • Communication plan
    • Change management plan
    • Roll out and transition plan
    • Evaluation plan

The Learning Council

The Learning Council created included the 11 following members:

  • 5 managers heading up each of the 5 L&D groups
  • SVP of L&D
  • SVPs of each business function – HR/Administration, Finance, Operations, Manufacturing, Marketing/Sales

The main objective of the Learning Council was to develop a transition plan to move from 5 decentralized L&D groups to 1 centralized group.

A separate group was formed that includes all senior leadership to determine a plan to retain and redeploy the staff that would not remain part of the centralized L&D group. It was expected, obviously, that some would leave the company of their own volition for other opportunities, but ideally no more than 2 – 4 people would be lost to other companies.

The First Meeting

During the first meeting of the Learning Council, the CEO of the organization spoke about the plans to transition from decentralized L&D groups to one centralized L&D group and the reasons behind this change. He emphasized that the goal was to retain all staff and redeploy throughout the organization those that did not remain with the centralized L&D group. However, he stated that he believed many would remain within L&D as the goal was to expand the responsibilities of L&D within the organization – including:

  • Responsibility for all high potential programs
  • Responsibility for succession planning programs
  • Development of custom programs

He wanted the members of the Learning Council to begin a realistic, detailed plan for transition to a centralized L&D group, being sure to focus on communications corporate-wide.

In this first meeting, the group decided that of utmost importance would be getting an initial communication out to the organization, and first, to the staffs within the 5 L&D groups, in order to pave the way for what would be a huge effort that needed the support of the entire organization.

Communication to the L&D Staff

The 5 managers of the current L&D groups, along with the SVP of L&D, met with the entire L&D organization for a 2 hour off-site meeting to discuss the plans to move from decentralized groups to a centralized L&D group supporting the entire organization. They emphasized that the role of L&D would be expanding within the organization, which should enable the majority of L&D staff members to remain within L&D; however, those who did not have roles within the centralized L&D would be redeployed within the organization.

The SVP of L&D noted that, while the staff was not members of the Learning Council, they would be actively involved in the transition and would be kept updated on progress and timelines.

Communication to the Organization

The CEO sent a communication to the entire organization discussing the Learning Council and their task of leading the move from decentralized L&D groups to a centralized L&D group that would support the entire organization. He discussed the goals behind this major change in the organization structure and the benefits of moving in this direction.

The CEO provided the names and contact information of each member of the Learning Council and requested that individuals who would like more information, or who have any questions or concerns, contact the Council or him for assistance.

The staff was asked to support the efforts of the Learning Council, providing them assistance and their ideas of how the L&D group could best support the organization.

2 Months into the Transition

After 2 months, the Learning Council had made the following progress:

  • Focus groups had been held and feedback gathered on what a centralized L&D group might look like for each of the functional areas within the organization.
  • Surveys had gone out to all employees to gather their thoughts on how L&D might support their personal and professional growth objectives.
  • A change management plan was completed, along with a risk management plan and an ongoing communication plan.
  • A stakeholder management plan was completed, along with a roll out and transition plan and a plan to evaluate the effectiveness of the centralized L&D group.
  • An overall project plan with timelines and budget requirements which included all of the plans noted above.
  • Regular updates to the L&D staff and other interested stakeholders were made on a monthly basis.

4 Months into the Transition

After another 2 months into the transition from decentralized L&D groups to a centralized group, there was significant progress toward the end goal. The timeline included a plan to consolidate as follows:

  • 5 groups to 3 groups within 6 months
  • 3 groups to 2 groups within 9 months
  • 2 groups to 1 group within 12 months

The Learning Council was actually ahead of schedule and it was expected that the move from 5 groups to 3 would happen within another month (5 months into the project). The staff from the various L&D groups had been a tremendous help in moving the project forward. A few of them had already found other opportunities within the organization in various roles.

The CEO was pleased with the progress.

6 Months into the Transition

The move from 5 groups to 3 groups was successful. Of the 12 people that were part of the 2 groups merged into the other 3:

  • 4 moved to other roles within the organization
  • 2 voluntarily left the organization; finding other jobs in other organizations
  • 6 were redeployed to work with the remaining 3 L&D groups

During the 6th month, 5 more people gave their notice and left the organization for other jobs. To date, 7 individuals within the group of 30 L&D staff left the organization during the first 7 months of the transition. This was more than expected by senior management and concerns were raised about the loss of some good people who were key within the L&D groups. An emergency meeting was called by Human Resources and senior executives to determine what to do to stop the loss of employees to other organizations. Prior to the meeting, an anonymous survey of all L&D staff (including those who left the organization) showed:

  • Although there was significant communication from the Learning Council – a lack of communication from the CEO made people feel insecure about their future at the organization.
  • There was still no final decisions communicated on exactly where everyone would be redeployed, or if they would remain within L&D and it was already 6 months into the project with wrap-up expected in another 6 months. This raised concerns about peoples’ futures within the organization.

The senior executives, based on the feedback received from the survey and personal conversations with the managers of the L&D groups, decided to send out an email company-wide about the transition to a centralized L&D group and specific plans for individuals who are part of L&D currently.

The email sent to the company, from the CEO, noted the following:

  • The move from 5 L&D groups to a centralized L&D group would be completed within the next six months
  • Of the 19 remaining L&D staff members (recall that 7 left the organization and 4 moved within the organization to other roles), 16 would remain with L&D and have been given roles within the centralized L&D group and 3 have taken other opportunities within the organization that have been a promotion for them.

He also thanked everyone for their hard work and support in working toward this goal.

A meeting with the stakeholders showed that they were pleased with the progress to date and felt it was going smoothly overall with minimal, if any, disruption for staff and ongoing programs.

9 Months into the Transition

The organization is now down to 2 L&D groups, which are expected to merge into one within a month and a half. The groups contain the 16 individuals who will remain with L&D. One of the last remaining groups is focusing mainly on training of operation and manufacturing staff – finishing up a management development program, specifically for these two groups, that has been running for the last 2 years. It is just wrapping up and will be done within 2 months. To ensure consistency, it was decided that the L&D group should finish the project, and then they will transition the follow up work associated with this program to the centralized L&D group. Since the individuals supporting the management development program will remain within L&D, it is expected that the transition will be seamless for participants in the programs and for the organization as a whole.

The 16 individuals will be assigned roles as follows:

Past Role/Title

New Role/Title


Senior Manager


Training Manager


Development Manager

Training Coordinator

Training Administrator/Classroom Setup

Training Coordinator

Training Administrator/Catering







Project Manager

Program Manager

Project Manager

Project Manager

Project Manager

Project Manager

Course Developer

Course Developer

Course Developer

Course Developer

Course Developer

Course Developer

Instructional Designer

Instructional Designer

Instructional Designer

Instructional Designer

It was decided that hiring would begin for the following roles:

  • Instructional Designer (1 additional Instructional Designer was required)
  • Course Developer (1 additional Course Developer was required)
  • Business Analysts (2 Business Analysts were required)

All L&D employees would report to an SVP of L&D, who reports to the EVP of HR, who reports to the Chief HR Officer of the organization.

Up next – Part II – One Year Later…

Comments are closed.