“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” — Jack Welch
With this insight, Jack Welch defines an important strategic challenge for every organization operating today. The pace of change is fast and accelerating. If we do not enable our people to keep pace with change through rapid learning, we will inevitably lose opportunities and fall behind. Here are five ways to help your organization learn to be great.
1. Make Organizational Learning a Core Function
Think of organizational learning as the process of creating, retaining, and transferring knowledge within your organization. Then think about the changes that are occurring in your customer base, operating environment, and core operating functions. Can your organization survive and thrive with people who are not engaged in continuous learning? The answer for most organizations is a resounding ‘no.’ This is why organizational learing has to be a core function in 2018 and beyond.
2. Link Organizational Learning to Strategy
We know from research and experience that effective strategy requires focused and continuous learning. Strategy design requires learning to assure that the organization is positioned to succeed in a changing environment. Strategy execution requires learning to assure that everyone is equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to optimize execution at their particular level. So it makes sense to link your organizational learning objectives to your strategic objectives at every level of the organization.
3. Create a Culture of Organizational Learning
While some people are naturally inclined to learn and share knowledge in the workplace, others are not. It is the job of leadership to create a culture where people are rewarded for contributing to organizational learning. A first step is for all leaders and managers to model the way for learning and sharing. A second step is to informally (but consistently) recognize team members who create and share knowledge. A third step is to formally incorporate learning and sharing into job descriptions, personnel evaluations, and decisions about compensation and promotion.
4. Create Efficient Pathways for Organizational Learning
In addition to a supportive culture, people need learning pathways that are relevant to their work and efficient with their time. One pathway could be peer-to-peer learning through team huddles, emails, chats, calls, and shared knowledge bases. A second pathway could be online access to external resources such as articles, podcasts, webinars, and e-courses. A third pathway could be traditional trainings, conferences, or courses. The key is to leverage all of these pathways into a flexible and focused learning program that helps people learn and share knowledge in efficient ways.
5. Assure Value in Organizational Learning
Organizational learning is an investment that should return value to the participants and the enterprise. To assure this value, clearly define your audiences and learning objectives. Then design your learning pathways to optimize access, impact, flexibility, and efficiency. Also engage your leadership team in creating a culture that supports proactive learning and sharing of knowledge. As you roll out the program, periodically check in with participants to see how they are engaging and turning learning into action. Be flexible and ready to make adjustments for assuring focus and optimizing value.
At Community Health Solutions we help people create organizational learning programs that deliver real strategic value. If you would like to explore ways to apply organizational learning in your setting, contact us for a free, no-obligation consult to discuss the possibilities.