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2007 CLO of the Year Kevin Wilde, General Mills: Link Between Learning Strategy and Business Success Post-Merger
A chief learning officer who stands out among his peers will know that learning and development are not enough.
A chief learning officer who stands out among his peers will know instinctively that learning and development — while singularly one of the most effective ways to effect change in an organization — are not enough. He will know that without foresight, learning technology can hinder as much as help, and learning programs, whether in a classroom or online, are not always the answer. At least, they are not the answer without a solid business-motivated strategy to back them up.
Kevin Wilde, vice president of organization effectiveness and chief learning officer at General Mills and Chief Learning Officer magazine’s 2007 CLO of the Year, understands these things very well. When the leading consumer-foods company experienced some of the ills common to large, recently merged organizations, Wilde knew that without change management, support from senior leadership and interdepartmental cooperation, learning and development activities would not be enough to bolster flagging performance.
“Essentially post-merger with Pillsbury, we were twice as large, and we really weren’t performing up the expectations that we had internally, and certainly not what Wall Street had. A lot of it had to do with consistency,” he explained. “We’d have one good year, one good quarter, and then we would slip back down. Starting about 18 months ago, our mission became clear — we needed to get back to winning.”
Wilde said he was actively involved in many strategic senior team meetings, helping to organize, facilitate and craft the discussions to figure out why, with its existing talent base, General Mills wasn’t meeting internal or external expectations for top-tier performance.
Considered a best-practices link in the organization because of his ability to engage senior leaders strategically and tactically, Wilde’s ability to open up cross-departmental knowledge transfer and business planning integration helped to create productivity efficiencies, identify common research and development projects, and explore cross-channel innovations. Together these offshoots of learning removed some of the roadblocks around priority setting and stronger execution that were preventing the organization from fulfilling its vision.
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