How to Accelerate Team Learning

A team’s ability to learn quickly is at the heart of adapting to constant changes. In fact, it seems that constant learning is the only key to agility as a team and organization.

Jack Welch famously said,

“An organizations ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the greatest competitive advantage.”

On this blog, we have visually explored various facets of creating a learning organization. It all starts from understanding why organizations don’t learn. Peter Senge’s seminal work on creating a learning organizations outlines learning disabilities that plague organizations. To overcome these disabilities, we explored disciplines of a learning organization and the role of reflection in how we learn.

Along the same lines, I read Elizabeth Doty’s post titled “How to Accelerate Learning on Your Team” at Strategy+Business blog with great interest. It adds on to the ideas we have explored further and provides fresh perspective on how to catalyze learning within teams.

I encourage you to read the full post and here are my visual notes from the same article.

P.S: I wrote a post in 2011 that outlined 10 actions for leaders to create learning organizations and further outlined Three Rituals For Constant Alignment And Learning that just aligns with some of the ideas suggested in this post. Do check them out.

Learning: Experience Plus Reflection

“A good starting point for embedding reflection into daily workflow is to approach the practice at two levels; individual reflection, and then reflection with colleagues and team members. Reflective practice itself doesn’t ‘just happen’. It is a learned process. It requires some degree of self-awareness and the ability to critically evaluate experiences, actions and results.”

The Power of Reflection in an Ever-Changing World, Charles Jennings

I once worked in a team that followed a well established process of doing structured retrospectives after every major product release. This worked well and as a result these reflective exercises, team performance and quality of work improved. Then, speed took its toll. In pursuit of doing more frequent releases, teams stopped doing retrospectives. In the rush to deliver more faster, there was simply no time to reflect and share.

One of the most important ways to build a learning organization is to have rituals that facilitate reflection, sharing and learning individually as well as collectively. In this 2011 post, I recommended three rituals for constant alignment and learning – kickoffs, reviews and retrospectives. Apart from these, daily stand up meetings, team huddles and informal peer to peer communication play a vital role in how a team learns – and more importantly, puts their learning in practice. Done correctly, these rituals can have a powerful impact on team building, quality of work and learning.

In his post, Charles Jennings also outlines four ways we learn (read here). Here is a quick sketch note summary of the learning process.

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