A learning organization is all about finding fresh ways to fix mistakes, accepting failure, trying new things and looking at a crisis situation as a chance to get educated, and do better next time. Any company functions like an ecosystem where teams try different things, exchange ideas and then utilize them across the board. With a large company, the processes of sharing and disseminating knowledge should be regulated and controlled to achieve the best results possible.
There are a few parties that can be responsible for this task, such as the Chief Technical Officer (CTO), who can be the go-to point for all the technical information to trickle down to and be documented at. The TCO can get valuable facts from production departments, access them and make decisions about this or that solution. In addition, more generic yet all-encompassing services in contact with every department and head, such as Human Resources, can spread information about new tools and results of experiments.
The choice of go-to department depends on what type of solution one needs to test run. If it is a new method of hiring staff, then HR will be testing it. If it is a new way of writing sales proposals or marketing materials, then Sales and Marketing departments will be responsible to test them out and report on the findings. The trick is to keep knowledge open to all, so it can be used in different situations equally successfully.
To make sure new knowledge is synchronized and used to its maximum potential, it is a good idea to have a corporate system and instruments to track projects and important metrics, use critical and code analysis to properly evaluate how knowledge is utilized. Any team or department can use new methodologies if they don’t come into conflict with the corporate security system. Then data for the new tools and experiments has to be stored, and after an in-depth analysis, it can be green lit for trials on new teams and projects.
Regular events and activities to synchronize the company’s learning opportunities are a vital part of corporate life. Sometimes heads of departments and CEOs do not get enough interaction with staff, and it is important to get feedback from all levels of the company to see the full picture and take action wherever necessary.
360 surveys are one way to let staff provide feedback on their work in the company. It is important to see how involved people are, check department metrics and progress, see where career growth steps are taking them, and analyze all these facts from the point of view of people who do to manage the staff directly. A neutral person allows for more honesty; an honest interview can clear up if the employee is comfortable with their manager, and how the reports of the manager and staff correlate. Very often, in simple 360 survey conversations banal questions and issues come up and can be solved on the spot, or later on. And of course, monitoring how happy and satisfied clients are can be indicative of how smooth the company operates and whether it learns from mistakes.
Informal means of communication (department breakfasts, events, corporate parties, or even chats near the coffee machine) are just as important as formal ones. Freedom of speech is vital, and any staff member should feel comfortable about asking any of the leaders questions that bother them. Every known outstanding leader is always approachable, and not afraid to learn something new from their subordinates. Appreciation of different opinions and being open to new ideas is what makes learning organizations viable in tough, competitive markets.
Diversifying learning efforts and trying out different business models, depending on the market situation, can help learning organizations transform in step with world tendencies in IT. New developments should be tracked, saved and analyzed while knowledge dissemination must be centrally controlled and synchronized by key responsible persons. Communication both formal and informal may help ensure the company is learning as a whole and using all the latest innovations and knowhow.
How are educational efforts centralized in your company? What’s the last new tool or technique you tried and what were the results?