Is your business a learning organization?
You can tell when a company values learning. The employees say, "I don't know, but I'll find out." It is a deep value within a person or organization to continue learning.
The old command-and-control way of doing business is built on the premise that the world is a predictable place. The problem is, the only thing that is predictable in today's organizations is that they change, then change some more and change again.
Learning organizations are more flexible and less hierarchical than traditional organizations. They are more like communities that employees can feel a commitment to. They require cooperation between individuals and groups, free and reliable communication and a culture of trust.
How exactly do you go about designing a learning organization that thrives in times of rapid change? Several strategies are important. The more of each of these strategies that your organization utilizes, the closer it is to becoming a learning organization.
* Encourage personal mastery. Individual learning is acquired (not required) through staff training and development. More important, however, is to develop a culture where personal mastery is sought and practiced in daily work life.
* Seek openness. For an organization and its people to learn, employees have to be willing to tell the truth without fear of retribution. Driving fear out of the organization will help develop a climate of trust and will help build a learning environment.
* Insist on teamwork. When organizations rely on teams to respond to change and learning, employees mobilize and grow more quickly. Also, the problem-solving capacity of the organization is improved through better access to knowledge and expertise.
* Share the vision. The development of a shared vision is important in motivating staff to learn. It creates a common identity that provides focus and energy for learning. The most successful visions build on the individual visions at all levels of the organization.
* Consider the behavior you are rewarding. Remember the phrase, "You get what you reward." What actions are you rewarding, and what behaviors are you getting in return? Reward those who actively and willingly develop themselves and the rest of the team.
Change and improvement is easier and longer-lasting when the environment reinforces the learning process. Periodically audit your environment to identify ways to further enhance learning and development. In this ever-changing global business environment, it's crucial to value and promote continuous learning.
Brad Larsen is a life coach and corporate consultant from Northern Utah. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org