How Mature Is Your Learning Business?

BY Celisa Steele


If you want to assess the maturity of your learning business, there’s now a resource for you: the Learning Business Maturity ModelTM.

Learning Business Maturity Model (TM)The Learning Business Maturity Model articulates the characteristics and practices of a mature learning and education business or line of business, as well as the stages that typically precede full maturity. It is intended specifically for market-facing organizations or units within such organizations that focus on lifelong learning, continuing education, and professional development. It is not intended for corporate training departments or degree-granting programs, for example.

You can download the Learning Business Maturity Model (see options just below)—and we hope you will—but we also want to provide context for the model: why we developed it and how we see it evolving.

Why a Maturity Model?

We developed the Learning Business Maturity Model because, over our years of working with market-facing learning businesses, we’ve seen common problems and issues.

We’ve also seen significant opportunities for those learning businesses, opportunities that are often common across organizations—and opportunities that those organizations often don’t see because they’re too mired in their problems.

And, lastly, we haven’t seen enough collaboration—within or among organizations—or enough innovation.

The goal of the Learning Business Maturity Model is to provide a framework to assess capabilities and to help surface problem areas, and then provide a clear way to move from problem to opportunity and then, we hope, to innovation.

To that end, we have also created an assessment (details below) to help learning businesses gauge their maturity—and thereby better understand their strengths and weaknesses in the areas like leadership, strategy, resources, products and services, and marketing. So this model aims to move behind the theoretical and address the practical questions about how a learning business can improve.

A High-Level Look at the Maturity Model

The Learning Business Maturity Model spans four stages of maturity:

  • Stage 1: Static
  • Stage 2: Reactive
  • Stage 3: Proactive
  • Stage 4: Innovative

In each stage, we gauge maturity according to characteristics and performance in five domains we’ve found to be critical to the success of the learning and education businesses we have been involved with over the years. (The downloadable version of the model contains more detail about each stage.)

In cases in which the learning and education business is part of a larger organization—as it is with many trade associations and professional societies—the model deals with these domains in the context of the learning and education line of business, not the entire organization.

  • Leadership
    How clear is the vision for the learning and education business? How is accountability for achieving the vision shared and sustained over time? Is there a culture of learning throughout the organization and its audience?
  • Strategy
    How clearly articulated is the strategy? Has it been communicated and embraced broadly throughout the organization? Are clear metrics established and tracked, and does the organization adjust strategy based on the data captured?
  • Capacity
    Does the organization have sufficient capacity, in terms of human resources and technology, to pursue the vision and strategy effectively?
  • Portfolio
    Are the content, methodologies, and modalities aligned with well researched, thoroughly understood learner needs? Is the impact of learning assessed at multiple levels over time?
  • Marketing
    Is there a validated understanding of the overall market and competitive environment? Are appropriate marketing methodologies used consistently and tracked for effectiveness?

The maturity model is also a way to help market-facing learning businesses more fully recognize they are part of a distinct sector—comprised of a wide variety of organizations, yes, but linked by the shared goal of serving a market through learning—and can learn from each other.

In the downloadable version of the model we provide generic descriptions of learning and education businesses at each stage of maturity and assume similar performance across all five domains. Keep in mind, though, that most businesses will perform better in some of the domains and worse in others. Your business, for example, may perform at a Stage 3 level for Leadership, Strategy, and Marketing but at lower levels for Capacity and Portfolio. As a result, the business overall may best be described as being at Stage 2. But it would be clear that the business should focus on improving in the domains of Capacity and Portfolio to progress to Stage 3 maturity.

Getting Value Out of the Maturity Model

The Learning Business Maturity Model can be used in multiple ways. On its own, the visual of the model may serve as a conversation-starter and common point of reference for staff within a learning and education business and, where relevant, across the broader organization in which the learning and education business operates. In many cases, we find stakeholders haven’t previously thought this clearly and consciously about the necessary capabilities of a successful, mature learning and education business. The model identifies areas to track and measure and, in doing so, helps make it clearer that learning and education is a business and needs to be viewed and managed as one.

A group with which this conversation can be particularly important is an organization’s board. Again, in many cases, board members have often not thought of the learning and education business in the terms used by the model. Focusing on the five domains may, in many cases, expose weaknesses in the existing business, but it can also clearly identify areas in which resources are needed and help justify the organization’s investment in those resources.

The Maturity Model Assessment

All of the above can be achieved without necessarily using the assessment that accompanies the Learning Business Maturity Model, but our hope is that organizations will, in fact, make use of the assessment to get as clear an understanding as possible of current strengths and weaknesses and to develop plans for addressing appropriate domains. To access the assessment and an accompanying scoring sheet, simply click the button below and provide the requested information.

Get the Assessment >>

Initially, it may be that only the top-level leader of the learning and education business completes the assessment, but our view is that organizations should strive to engage a diverse set of stakeholders in the assessment over time. Doing so will help ensure a more accurate assessment of the organization’s maturity and may also help create broader awareness of and appreciation for the work of the learning and education business.

The Future of the Maturity Model

We don’t consider the Learning Business Maturity Model final at this point—it may never be. We plan to improve the model over time, based on feedback from those making use of it and the assessment in their organization.

We also have plans to develop additional resources (other articles, training, and more) around the model—and, more importantly, around the use of the model to improve the reach, revenue, and impact of learning businesses.

We hope you’ll download the fuller explanation of the model, which includes the assessment, and we hope you’ll make use of the assessment to gauge where your learning business is and to start a discussion with the relevant stakeholders—your board, your education staff, your C-suite, your learners—about how you move learning forward in your organization.

As you review the model or make use of it in your organization, please share you comments and suggestions with us. Send those to support@tagoras.com. We will respond to feedback we receive and, as appropriate, incorporate it into future versions.

We look forward to improving the Learning Business Maturity ModelTM—and we welcome your help and input along the way.

Jeff & Celisa

Advisory Services

For organizations serious about developing a more mature learning and education business, we also offer an audit and advisory services package to help ensure your success. Contact us to discuss how we can best help your organization.

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