Visit Our Store February 16, 2010
What is a learning organization? In the words of Peter Senge, a leading expert in the field of organizational management,
…organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.
Essentially, a Learning Organization is one that is always improving its ability to shape its future. It is a critical component of modern business survival, especially knowledge-based, service-focused businesses. Making continual learning a way of organizational life will improve the performance of the organization as a whole.
Here are the five disciplines of a continuous learning environment, and how they can be integrated into your own organization:
Encourage Personal Mastery
Set the bar for personal mastery by encouraging and supporting people who want to development themselves and their skills.
Modify Mental Models
These are the assumptions and experiences that people have about themselves, others, others, and organizations. Explore ways to create new mental models that serve the organization better and facilitate learning.
Build a Shared Vision
Building shared vision is essential to garnering commitment. Improve your chances by being willing to take a stand for the guiding ideas they consider important. Bind people together by creating a shared vision, purpose and values.
Enhance Team Learning
Team learning is critical for creating a Learning Organization; the team’s ability is greater than the sum of the individuals’ talents!
Enhance the team’s training systems and learning programs in order to stimulate synergies and new idea generating.
Focus on Systems Thinking
Always consider the interrelationships within systems. Systems thinking always considers the whole organization, and the interplay among components. This multiplies the value gained from any training program.
By committing to and practicing these basic tenets, you will become a change catalyst in the effort to turn your workplace into a Learning Organization.
Certain kinds of change are always easy to make; increasing and decreasing budgets, maintaining strategic alliances, arranging a merger—The fact is that these bold strokes are not what create sustainable change in the organization; it is the long marches that pay off.
Long-term, effective organizational change requires people to adjust their behavior. You can allocate resources for new product development or reorganize as a unit. Regardless, you cannot order people to use their imagination to solve the budget crunch or to work collaboratively with other members on the team, in the department, or within cross-departmental problem-solving teams.
According to the author of “On Leading Change” (Jossey-Bass, 2002), there are seven classic techniques that leaders can bring to a changing organization.
1. Tuning in to the environment, through creating a network of listening posts, such as partnerships and alliances that allow you to gather and share information.
2. Challenging the prevailing organizational wisdom, through what is called “kaleidoscope’ thinking; a way of constructing patterns from fragments of data available and manipulating them to form different patterns. Can you look at all of the available information and consider it in a new way?
3. Communicating a compelling aspiration. Changing anything requires a strong and genuine conviction, since there are so many forces to overcome.
4. Building Coalitions through the involvement of people who have the resources, knowledge and political clout to make things happen.
5. Transferring ownership to a working team. Once your coalition is in place, you can enlist others in the implementation. As a leader, you must remain involved, and don’t expect your managers to take over all of the proceedings.
6. Learning to persevere. Everything can look like a failure in the middle. One of the major mistakes that leaders can make is to launch plans and then leave them. Stay with your crew.
7. Making everyone a hero. Recognition brings the change cycle to its logical conclusion, and also motivates people to attempt change again.
These techniques are effective not only in facilitating change within organizations but also key to sustaining high performance in less turbulent times.
The places where we put our attention and focus are the things that expand. If we focus on fear and doubt, we will find evidence to support that that is true and real. This thinking is detrimental to your ability to seal the deal. Even if you spend time resisting fear, you are still focusing on it, and that which we resist persists. Stop. Take a moment each day to focus on what you are grateful for and what makes you feel resilient. ~Suzi Pomerantz
How are some of the concepts that you talk about in your book, Seal the Deal, applicable to the recent economy?
The core concepts of the “critical trinity” of Networking, Marketing and Sales have not changed at all. Think of it as a 3-legged stool. You need all three legs to balance the stool. Given the explosion of social media and other web 2.0 advancements combined with the economic challenges we face today, the professional services provider can do much more networking and marketing with farther reach for less cost than ever before.
What is the biggest priority shift that people should make, in order to become better at closing deals and completing projects?
It’s really all about numbers. The biggest shift to make, particularly while we are on the road to economic recovery, is a return to basics. Focus on your core business, your core competencies, the best use of your expertise and skill set and team, and increase your outreach significantly. I can’t stress enough that it’s a numbers game. Not just for creating opportunities and keeping your pipeline filled, but for protecting yourself emotionally as well. Look at it this way: with 3 leads, when you lose one it hurts. With 150 leads, when you lose one it’s no big deal–you’re already onto the next ones.
Tell us about “Lesssons Learned” meetings.
Now more than ever, customer service is paramount. The Lessons Learned meetings allow you to check in with your client at various stages of an engagement or project to learn how well served they feel. It also allows you to course-correct if there is anyplace that your products or services are lacking. It’s as simple as asking about what’s next for them and how you might be able to support their next steps.
Green Management vs. Seasoned Employees
A new employee comes into your department after transferring from a different site, and you will be her immediate supervisor.
Although she is extremely diligent and intelligent, she is having trouble connecting with her new staff members. Raising the performance of the department is why she was brought in, but the combination of perceived resentment from the staff combined with her no-nonsense attitude toward improvement has driven a divide between her and those who report to her. She is clearly frustrated.
Even more, she wants to add a complaint to the engineering supervisor’s permanent file. The engineering supervisor has never had a complaint listed in his file during his 18 years of service and a new mandate makes such complaints a serious.
You ask her to sit down. What is your solution to the problem?