Case Study: Cluster-based Learning Plans

Implementation of Cluster-based Learning Plans in a Lighting Equipment Manufacturing company.


The organization being referred to is a large manufacturer of electronic products for the lighting industry. Started in the early 1990s, the company has scaled and diversified very quickly, especially in the last decade.

With a workforce of about 5000 spread across multiple manufacturing and office facilities across India, the company’s senior management recognizes the value of developing its human capital. Towards that end, the company management in the year 2010 started identifying and assessing Learning Delivery partners to help the middle to senior management layer become more productive as individuals, by developing not only their technical expertise but also their social and people skills.

This consultant was hired by the company to help 200 of their managers improve their “Interpersonal Communication Skills”.


Some specifics about the context within which the intervention was to happen:

  1. Most of the 200 managers were in the age group of 38–45 years.
  2. More than 75% of them had been with the company for more than 8 years.
  3. Very few of them had any formal exposure to Soft Skills/Personal development learning in a classroom. Most of them were genuinely excited at the opportunity, yet had reservations at being “taught” strategies for effective communication at this age and at this stage of their careers.
  4. More than 90% of them had a Bachelor’s degree in a technical subject.
  5. Many of them did not speak the English language regularly in their day-to-day work. This meant, as was confirmed by the management as well, that the classroom sessions needed to be bi-lingual.
  6. The participants were spread over 5 different locations, and the sessions would happen locally at each location.
  7. The participants were pre-divided into 10 batches of 20 people each, based primarily on location. Since it was a 24×7 manufacturing set-up, another key consideration in creating the batches was not to disturb the logistics of ongoing operations.
  8. Given the focus area as “Interpersonal Communication”, it was essential to understand the nature of the communication that these 200 people undertook on a day-to-day basis. For most of them, the communication happened within the company, except for very few people whose roles required them to interact with vendors, customers and/or other external agencies like local government bodies.

Case details:

Given the above context, and during my interactions with the stakeholders, senior management and most importantly a sample group from the intended participants, I designed the intervention as follows:

  • The larger population of 200 managers was divided into various clusters, based on the focus area of learning within the larger goal of developing interpersonal communication

Some clusters that were created:

  • Comfort with the language.
  • Inter-cultural sensitivity.
  • Developing personal impact.
  • Developing assertiveness.
  • Listening and Responsiveness.
  • Clarity of thought and expression.

About 30% of participants were members of more than one cluster

The intervention was designed and delivered in various phases:

Learning Event / Activity Duration
Phase 1 Session with the entire group on the context, methodology, purpose and process of this intervention. Half-day
Phase 2 Individual sessions with the groups at each location on generic interpersonal communication effectiveness. 1 day session with each group
Phase 3 Introductory session with each cluster. Half-day with each cluster
Phase 4 3 sessions (of two-hours each) with each cluster within a span of 2 weeks for discussion and practice of key concepts. 6 hours with each cluster over 2 weeks
Phase 5 Hosting of all content on the company’s internal LMS.
Phase 6 Independent study and practice activities, send to participants as reading material, videos, quizzes, scenario-based quizzes through the LMS. 2 weeks
Phase 7 Session with each cluster to discuss implementation, challenges faced and learning from the previous three weeks. Half-day with each cluster
Phase 8 Presentation by each cluster on strategies being used by them to improve the specific area of learning implementation. Half-day with each cluster
Phase 9 In-person and online survey conducted among the managers and subordinates of the learners to assess the transfer of learning to behavior. 2 weeks
Phase 10 Session with the managers of participants on how they can support the development of the participants through positive reinforcement and environmental conditioning. Multiple 2 hour sessions
Phase 11 Final full-day session with each cluster to revise all the learning, discuss further learning and implementation, discuss anecdotes, successes and failures in implementation. Full-day session with each cluster

The entire intervention from the time of signing the contract to the end point of submitting the final report took 6 months to execute.


The approach adopted towards this intervention was unconventional. It involved giving learners well-rounded and comprehensive inputs on very specific learning topics, as against the general approach of purely classroom based ILT.

The process and the results thereof were very gratifying, both for the consultant and the learners.

The company management was very pleased with the observably evident improvement in the interpersonal skills of participants, and awarded a larger contract to the consultant for similar interventions in other areas of Soft Skills development.


  1. Short bursts of very focused learning input are more desirable and effective than traditional full-day generic sessions.
  2. The context and environment within the beneficiaries of learning operate; the “personality” of each company must be a key determinant of the learning content and methodology.
  3. Talk to people in their own language.
  4. Creating engagement in the process of learning needs to be the guiding thought behind intervention design and execution.
  5. Sometimes, learning for its own sake is also worthwhile.
  6. Improvement in social skills through relevant training can be made evident, even if organizations don’t wish to commit time and resources to measuring it.
  7. Learning is enhanced when people have the freedom to experiment and extrapolate what they have discovered in the process.

Vineet is an accomplished professional in the area of People Development and Human Resources. For the past decade, Vineet has been helping organizations improve their workforce’s productivity and performance. Having completed his education in India and Canada, Vineet started his career in Sales and soon realized that his true passion existed in understanding and developing people’s potential, specifically in the context of their work-lives. After having worked in the People Development teams of various organizations, Vineet experimented with using the tools and techniques from the world of Theatre and performing arts in the arena of self-development. Having been a theatre enthusiast for many years, he recognizes the value of creativity and authentic expression in developing personal leadership. He currently works with a leading local bank in the UAE as their Training Manager.

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Awesome write up and i am sure the training must have been productive too.
Keep p the good work and keep sharing exiting stuff
All the best.

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