I Am The One Who Knocks!

Breaking Bad, better known as the “Best TV Show Ever,” explored the possibilities of someone in an ordinary profession, (School Teacher), with extraordinary knowledge and skill, (Chemistry), to advance a nefarious criminal enterprise (Meth Dealer). Imagine if, instead of being a Chemistry teacher,  Walter White was a Director of Learning, with extraordinary skills and knowledge in Performance Management. What would that show look like? 

Boring, that’s what. An L & D professional could never get mixed up in drug dealing, right? Right? Our skills and expertise don’t lend themselves to territory management, leadership flux or product development. So forget about it. Unless you can’t. If that’s the case, read on for the top five Breaking Bad characters who could have also been L & D professionals.

For employees, ownership or upper management change often feels like a Sharknado through Los Angeles

5. Walter White

Walter White is the master of Change Management. No one on the show took individuals, teams, and organizations from their current state to a new state more frequently or as successfully as he did. Change management is marked by how we facilitate, build involvement in and manage the consequences of change. For example, after he removed half of Gus Fring’s face with a bomb, effectively ending previous ownership, he meticulously transitioned the drug empire from the cartels to new “Heisenberg” leadership. For employees, ownership or upper management change often feels like a Sharknado through Los Angeles, leaving confusion and fear in its wake. In Walt’s case, he was the instigator of leadership upheaval. For us, we may not be the cause, but we certainly assess the landscape, bring in key stakeholders and plan a way forward. Just like Walter did with his enforcer Mike, and partner Jessie. He’d be higher on the list, but he was a bit of a stumbling, bumbling dolt for much of the series as well. So he lands at number five.

4. Hank Schrader

In addition to rocking the best in orange fashion, Uncle Hank was an unparalleled practitioner of Managing Learning Programs. Loosely described, this function of learning and development focuses on using strategic and tactical knowledge to lead and execute a company’s learning or growth plans. ASAC Schrader spent much of the show tracking the Meth cartel’s leadership and was effective at meticulously overcoming obstacles to finally catch his brother-in-law, Heisenberg. Plus, he stopped the two cartel assassins, took out Tuco and ultimately went out like a boss.

Even though he hated the “managing” role, he did it well. Somebody has to budget, communicate and administer development programs. Managing Learning can be seen as the Brussel Sprouts side dish to the steak and potatoes of Instructional Design. (Because only vegans really enjoy it. Kidding. I love Brussel Sprouts.)  That’s a mistake. Just look to Hank for inspiration.

3. Skyler White

Walter’s wife Skyler gets a lot of unwarranted grief from Breaking Bad fans. She’s trying to keep her family safe, all while being terrified of her psychopathic husband. How does she keep her sanity? By being awesome at Integrated Talent Management. The L & D function is designed to make sure we have the right people skills, in the right job positions, doing what they do best within an organization. Skyer places their son in the perfect job to keep him from learning about her husband’s criminal activities. She was the architect of the “after drug dealing” succession plan. Heck, she was the one who

Ginger Rogers
This is Ginger Rogers. Respect.

figured out a way to provide Hank and Marie financial help after Hank’s run-in with the two aforementioned assassins. She did all this while being a mom to a newborn baby girl. She’s like the Ginger Rogers of drug dealer wives.

We typically integrate talent across less difficult circumstances. Sure, there are cross department considerations and ever-evolving HR systems and regulations. There’s not, however, a solid silver ax waiting for us if the 360-degree feedback program goes awry.

2. Lydia Rodarte-Quayle

Though only on the show for the last twelve episodes, Lydia was a crowd favorite. Despicable and ruthless, yet charmingly neurotic, her scene-stealing turn as a corporate facilitator for Walter’s Meth empire was one of the parts of the entire series. I believe she would have been amazing at Evaluating Learning Impact. This role basically has an L & D professional first analyze various data point regarding learning within an organization and then provide accurate results to determine if learning activities actually helped the company meet its objectives. It’s a cold, fact-based role and requires a ruthless dedication to unbiased evaluation. Lydia is the impetus behind the prison massacre, train robbery and Declan shootout. (Side note: I doubt you have read this far and not have seen this show. But if you haven’t, stream it. Now.) All because those where the steps needed to advance the organization.

Evaluation and analysis are baked into our daily lives as professional development leaders. Every session usually has a survey we’ve designed. We track and communicate on-boarding progress, turnover and ongoing courses for our companies and clients. We may even sip a bit of tea with Stevia while we do it.

1. Gustavo ‘Gus’ Fring

Instructional Design. Don’t believe me? Take a look at these training videos from Los Pollos Hermanos.


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