When we zoom out and look at the big picture right now, we are confronted with some uncomfortable information. First, work today is more about reacting and responding to e-mail than actually doing professional activities which create new value. According to Cal Newport in his thought-provoking book, Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World (Grand Central Publishing, 2016), a 2012 McKinsey study found that the average knowledge worker now spends more than 60 percent of the work week engaged in electronic communication and Internet searching, with close to 30 percent of their time dedicated to reading and answering e-mail alone.
Second, in the normal, day to day, highly distracted work place, we expect everyone to continually get better at their jobs. However, we rarely give people feedback or tools which can help them do this. We also rarely give them regular time or space to learn or improve.
Third, we expect employees to move through the normal group development stages rapidly, namely forming, storming, norming and performing. However, from my perspective, we want improving which takes place after the performing stage, but we do not understand fully how it actually happens.
In short, given the above, we know that leaders can shape understanding or destroy it through their actions. Leaders can create clarity or confusion, especially if they are giving mixed messages. And finally, leaders can create work environments which are based on learning and respect or on distrust and silo protectionism.
The first step to helping people learn is to a build learning ecosystem within the organization. My definition of an ecosystem at work revolves around the notion of a group of people interacting and functioning well as a community. This happens when all involved create and execute their quarterly personal development plans. Recognizing that every 3 year strategic plan needs to be broken down into a 1 year organizational plan, and that all 1 year organizational plans need to be broken down into 1 year division/department plans, the goal each year is to have a 1 year personal plan which is made up of 4, 90 day plans. If this happens, then most 90 day plans are in alignment with the company’s strategic goals. These 90 day plans are focused on performance based goals.
But the big question for us here today is the following: What are the learning goals to help someone improve their performance? Most organizations have performance based goals but rarely set learning goals to improve performance. If they do set performance and learning based goals, then it is vitally important that they get the time and support to execute these goals.
This week, check out whether or not your key people have performance goals and performance improvement based goals. Next, make sure they are getting the time, support, and space to do this level of learning. Our overall goal from this action is to build a shared mindset around continually wanting to get better.