How does your organization rate on Organizational Learning? Are your staff sharing knowledge and teaching one another what they know – about your clients or customers, about best practices? Who has valuable knowledge that’s not being tapped into?
“Learning Organizations” refers to continuous improvement of organizational practices, through reflection, sharing feedback and evaluation of outcomes. In learning organizations employees reflect on what works and what doesn’t work in business practices; they also discuss how effectively people are working together, in teams and departments. Companies who want their employees to learn and grow spend time developing a strategy for knowledge-sharing, which can include any of these activities:
- Provide time for employees to reflect on what’s working and what’s not, and have them generate recommendations to improve business processes. Make sure HR and management are committed to giving staff time for these conversations.
- Create Action Learning teams with people from different departments who come together to solve an organizational problem. They’re like an ad-hoc team, meeting for the amount of time it takes to generate a working solution. Use an Action Learning coach to guide the team to harness their learning and to develop their leadership skills during the course of the team’s work.
- Set aside time should allow for employees to teach one another, so you might think of this as a “teaching organization”, which was coined by leadership author Noel Tichy. He points out that everyone in the organization probably has something to teach others, regardless of their position. For example, the parking valet in a hospital lot is the last person to see patients before they leave the hospital, and may have a conversation with the patient about their experience. The patient might complain, or s/he might praise the hospital staff on excellent treatment. That’s valuable feedback; don’t wait for the “patient experience” survey, just ask the valet!
- Create a structure for collecting knowledge and for disseminating it – through brown bags, trainings, team meetings.
- Clarify feedback loops and make sure that the feedback about processes and systems is getting to the right people. Make sure that there is accountability for mistakes, so that something is done with the feedback to improve the way work is done. In a learning organization, everyone is responsible for what happens; rather than blaming an individual, we need to ask “What is it in the system that’s not working that allowed for this mistake to happen.”
So, How does your organization rate on Organizational Learning? Are your staff teaching one another? Who has valuable knowledge that’s not being tapped into? Does your organization have clear feedback loops, and do you have activities to generate feedback?