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Lean Learning

By David Fortanbary


Like most of us in our industry, we are being asked to deliver more and more with fewer and fewer resources, including budgets and people. Smaller organizations have been grappling with this dilemma for years, and now most us are faced with similar challenges. It is, of course, primarily important to always demonstrate the value of what we do. Despite our best efforts we are still asked to stay lean and deliver extraordinary learning experiences that move the business forward.

Some strategies and resources can help you, and your

organization achieve lean learning. For example, when tasked with the development of a disease state learning system, adopt a global first-to-market plan that leverages disease content built in other countries or regions. Diabetes is diabetes, whether you are in Sweden or the United States. So, why not take advantage of this? In coordination with your global partners, determine who is farthest along in their regulatory approval cycle. Whomever that is, they take the lead for initial content development. Once you are ready to develop your disease content, you have a very strong base to work from, which could save you thousands of dollars and months of development time. The re-purposing of workshops is another effective means to stay with lean learning. I am as guilty as the next person to say that I mostly start from scratch when building workshops. In lean times, it often takes minor tweaks or a cut and paste to create new workshops – change the brand, change the activity, but structurally keep the format of the workshop consistent. Re-purposing workshops will save you thousands of dollars and weeks of development time.

Relationships with our supplier partners offer a unique and important opportunity to stay lean while delivering high quality learning programs. On its surface, this may seem counter-intuitive: After all, most of our budgets are allocated for the development of resources and content in partnership with our suppliers. However, having an open, honest and transparent relationship with your supplier partners gives way to a more collaborative relationship focused on solutions – even when resources are constrained. I’ve been given some of my best advice on managing through lean times from my suppliers. Let them know your lean situation, and you likely will see some amazing innovation and partnerships develop.

Moreover, perhaps the most important resource to achieve your goals and deliver business value to your organizations is you – the network of learning professional members of LTEN. I encourage each of you to get involved with more of your LTEN colleagues from around the world.

LTEN is the ONLY organization that specializes in meeting the needs of life sciences learning professionals. If you have a challenge or question, chances are very good that other members have a solution. Just ask. Of course, we all understand our lanes and boundaries, but many ideas are not unique to companies but are a part of our function and industry.

A cool way to initiate that engagement with others is by downloading the new LTEN On-the- Go app. There, you will find a plethora of resources and platforms to connect with your fellow members. I’d love to hear from you on this topic of lean learning. What are some of your best practices and advice on lean learning? Post your answers on the new social link in LTEN On-The-Go.


David Fortanbary is president of LTEN and head of U.S. performance training for UCB Pharmaceuticals. Email David at

Advancing Global Life Sciences Learning
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