Developing a learning organisation

03. 03. 2018 by First Avocado

 

When change is an underlying theme of an organisation strategy, organisation ‘s learning culture cannot be left  far too behind. Learning culture isn’t just about acquiring and transferring knowledge, but includes those behavioral changes that truly reflect learning. However, when the culture in the organisation doesn’t advocate a culture of inquiry, much of the interventions be it improvements or product development  is deemed to be superficial – delivering just what is required.  It will simply fall back to old practices or at best follow only what has been passed on to them.

Learning Culture is more than just following a set of processes in establishing knowledge management. The former, is only an asset without a defined outcome.  A learning culture promotes ideas for implementation and continually learns from it. 

The two characteristics of learning organisation are continuous improvement and innovation. 

Continuous improvement cycle is based on identifying problem, analyzing the problem, generating potential solutions, implementing and evaluating the solution. What this means for organisation is establishing tools that measure accuracy and precision of solution implemented. Much of this would imply a data driven culture within the organisation – both qualitative and quantitative. The data driven culture needs to be complemented with management transparency in dealing with challenges and celebrating triumphs.

The people side of continuous improvement demands skills for contextual understanding of the problem and establishing Center of Excellence that serve a thought engine and also awards right behaviour for change.

The people side of continuous improvement demands skills for contextual understanding of the problem and establishing Center of Excellence that serve a thought engine and also awards right behaviour for change. This has been extensively discussed and practiced under the subject of Total Quality Management. However, much of the organisation fail to establish a forward thinking culture even after establishing structure, process and tools. To establish a culture of knowledge inquiry and sharing, organisations need to instill ownership and openness to failure. Although inscribed in company values – very few companies practice it and very few celebrate failure as a stepping stone to success.

This is why, innovation and continually learning from failure is a strong characteristic of a learning organisation. Interestingly, the culture of continuous improvement and innovation are equally important because too much of focus simply on continuous improvement can limit the expanding horizons in a volatile market. Continuous improvement normally involve series of small changes, designed to produce incremental gains in knowledge. They are especially common on the production floor. 

Innovation  involves searching for new knowledge. Innovation is usually motivated by opportunity and, not by current challenges.  Such interventions normally involve cross functional teams which demands collaborative effort from diverse workforce. Because, much of innovation begins by starting from a blank slate, creative problem solving includes less of  reflection but needs to be guided by new perspectives. A mindset of openness, appreciation and practical insanity is a must. The Leadership should be open to failure and break-down traditional silos, and enable all areas to work together towards a common vision. 

So how do you establish a learning culture in an organisation. Like all management interventions it begins by conducting an assessment of the organization to understand the current learning culture and, identify the gaps.  This change also needs to be ascertained with commitment from leadership and top management. Make learning and development essential by inducting it in strategy of the organisation by encouraging sharing of learning, skills and knowledge through formal training programs and mentoring sessions. Allow for recognition of individual and team learning and remember to celebrate successes

In many companies, expert knowledge is held locally and never disseminated efficiently throughout the organization. Ideas can be carried by using various mechanisms such as written, oral, and visual reports, and training programs. But such events are costly and take time. However, one approach that seem to deliver high impact and strengthens employees belief in learning is informal approach to learning in the workplace.

Informal learning is unplanned and lacks formal organization. Because informal learning is unplanned and occurs without a defined methodology,, Learning is more focused, as it is fully driven by the learner. Informal learning can be leveraged in workplace by coaching and mentoring practices using informal meetings, newsletter and using online platforms. This greatly ignites not only the cognitive change in the workplace, but also the behavioral changes required as a result of learning.

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