In episode 7 of the Managing eLearning Podcast, Jon & Matt sit down with Celisa Steele Co-Founder & Managing Director for Tagoras to discuss the Learning Business Maturity Model, which articulates the characteristics of a mature market-facing learning business or line of business, as well as the stages that typically precede full maturity. Tagoras developed it based on the common problems and opportunities they’ve seen in through years of working with a wide range of learning businesses.
To kick things off, Jon and Matt ask for a definition of the Learning Business Maturity Model. Developed in 2016, Celisa describes it as a framework that helps you assess your organization’s capabilities and problem areas, and it provides a clear path so you can move from problem, to opportunity, to innovation by focusing on the five domains of the model: leadership, strategy, capacity, portfolio and marketing. Furthermore, the model measures an organization’s progress in 4 stages: static, reactive, proactive, and innovative. Finally, the model seeks to improve an organization’s “3 Ds”: dialogue, diagnosis, and direction.
The model helps organizations realize the importance of being both mission driven as well focused on the business aspect of operations. According to Celisa, sometimes associations tend to be too mission driven, which can create problems down the road because revenue is the “lifeblood” of an organization. There is always a need for more revenue, because it allows an organization to better support their mission.
“Business can tend to be a dirty word,” said Celisa,” but organizations can be both mission driven and focused on the business side of things”. No matter what, though, she stressed that learning is always an important aspect of what any organization stands for, whether that be more business or mission focused.
Moving into the operations of the model, Celisa mentioned how the pandemic put many associations into reactive mode. COVID-19 was a global event that organizations were forced to react to in little time. Therefore, putting them into reactive mode, which is essentially becoming aware of the need to change in response to an event. Now that they could not offer in person events, they had to quickly respond and determine the next necessary steps.
Celisa then went into the maturity model process.
“When we work with an organization, the first thing we do is develop an assessment that aligns with the model. We want to have a broad range of participants complete this assessment. The leadership team, managers, all contributors must complete an assessment so we can understand what’s going on within an organization.” She describes how there is a lot to learn from each individual, and getting a wide breadth of participants can point an organization in the right direction and reveal what needs to happen. After analyzing the assessment, a diagnosis is determined and they must then evaluate the tactical moves to strengthen the organization.
When asked which aspect of the model is the most important, Celisa stressed all 5 are absolutely critical.
“You can have a brilliant strategy, but if you don’t have the capacity to execute on that strategy, then it won’t do you any good. It’s about how you keep them balanced.” Essentially, she said to reinforce areas that are strong, but also improve areas that are weak.
To Jon and Matt’s surprise, marketing is the biggest area of weakness in the model. According to Celisa, it’s an expense area. It takes money to market your business well, especially when many people had difficulty adjusting to the new influx of online operations during the pandemic.
Celisa suggests that organizations’ marketing efforts should begin with product creation. Nowadays, people focus too much on promotion, when they really need to figure out WHAT exactly is needed by the target market the organization is trying to reach. This is where more time and resources need to be allocated.
That’s not all! Celisa moves on to discuss pricing, innovation, and the future of online education for nonprofits. Tune it to hear the rest!