Monday, June 4, 2012

Building a Learning Organization - part #1

“When both the destination and current reality are clear, and the staged objectives have been defined,” writes Judy Rosenblum, an advisor at Duke Corporate Education, “managers next need to answer the question: “What does the organization need to be able to do to execute the strategy and reach the destination?” 
Individual competencies refer to a specific person’s knowledge and skills required to fulfill specific role requirements.  
Organizational capabilities are collective abilities of the firm required to execute the business strategy.  
Even the most brilliant strategy will not succeed if the firm lacks the organizational capability to execute it. It is striking how much time is spent in corporate business planning on “what we are going to do” and “what that will do for growth and profit” and how little time is spent on “what we have to be able to do” in order to make any of it happen.” 
The development of capability becomes an integral part of the plan as the manager thinks about what has to happen in terms of people, process, knowledge, measurement and environment for the strategy to be executed.” 
When building a learning organization, start by understanding how different people learn. We explored this topic at the Fall 2010 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable. As we all know, people learn in different ways, and no one has a better learning style than anyone else. Basically, there are three types of learning: Analyzing learners, Doing learners, and Watching learners. The Analyzer understands a task by taking it apart, examining its elements, and reconstructing it piece by piece. They craves information, and needs to know all there is to know before they are comfortable with it. The best way to teach them is with ample classroom time and post-mortem through analysis. These learners do like mistakes and do not like to wing it. On the other hand , Doers learn best by throwing themselves into in a new situation and just going for it. Analyzers learns before something happens; Doers learns during the actual event. For them, mistakes are the raw material for learning. Finally, Watchers learn through imitation. They need to see the total performance done by the most experienced performers. 
To understand how people learn on your team, ask the following questions: When in your career do you think you were learning the most? Why did you learn so much? What’s the best way for you to learn? For more information, I recommend reading the following book: Buckingham, Marcus. The One Thing You Need to Know ... About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success, Free Press, 2005.
Also, remember that there is a difference between proficiency and learning. Learners are not proficient as experts. If you want to get better at something “new” or “different,” then you need to pay the price for people to become proficient. However, many leaders and managers are truly afraid to make mistakes. Still, learning means making mistakes and tolerating people who fail. Recognizing that a learner is a beginner and not very good the first couple of times around, we must realize that orderly work environments do not support people who make mistakes. Therefore, we must focus on and consider the implications if a work environment is filled with fear or disrespect. Learning is difficult even in the best environment.
Finally, we as leaders most focus on “better than”, not optimal when it comes to performance and learning. We must send the message that our job is to do something today that's better than what we did yesterday. And to do something tomorrow that's better than what we did today. Learning is always a challenge. Having the support of a great leader makes a world of difference.
Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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