Business First September 2017 Business First September 2017 - Page 26

BEST PRACTICE Leading a Learning Organisation by Anne Phillipson Programme Director, William J Clinton Leadership Institute, Queen’s University Belfast s I write this article, exam results are being published, back­to­school shopping is in full swing, and soon our new autumn calendar of courses will commence. The start of a new school year has an energy about it, with the promise of learning new things, meeting new people, and new possibilities. Does your organisation have that same energy about learning, not just in the autumn, but throughout the year? Would you describe your organisation as a Learning Organisation? With the rate of constant change, the speed of business, and intense competition driving the need for innovation and continuous improvement, all businesses must be constantly learning, developing and growing. Learning organisations provide work environments that are open to creative thought and believe that the solutions to ongoing problems exist within the collective brain­power of the team. They organise themselves to be able to tap into that depth of knowledge and problem­ solving, knowing that good ideas and creative solutions don’t have to come from the top of the organisation. Learning organisations are flatter, more open, value learning, enquiry, action and challenge. Learning organisations think differently. Peter Senge, in his seminal work, The Fifth Discipline, describes five disciplines of Learning Organisations. A 1. Systems Thinking –the ability to see the organisation as a whole, from a wider perspective. This is important because creative solutions often come not from within a silo, but at the intersection of different functions. 2. Personal Mastery – a focus on each individual being their best self, striving to reach their own personal potential, committed to self­awareness and growth. 3. Mental Models –recognising the way we think is driven by deeply held belief structures, generalisations and blind­spots. So, to overcome our own flawed thinking we need to be open to new ways of thinking and sharing. 4. Shared Vision –vision cannot be dictated from the top. If we want commitment, people need to be involved in the creation of the vision and see the possibilities and benefits of working hard to reach that vision. Learning organisations spend time 24 crafting shared visions and thinking about the future together. 5. Team Learning – with so much emphasis and work being done in teams, it is important that teams spend time together learning new skills, reflecting on past experiences and taking learning from those. Teams that take time out are undoubtedly higher performing teams. If you agree with all that, and you are thinking, ‘yes, please’, we could use some of that around here, the next step is to think about what you can do to shift the culture of your organisation to be more open to embrace and value learning. Here are three ideas to turn thought into action: Communication is key. Promote inquiry and dialogue. What technology or processes do you have which allow the free­flow and exchange of information across the organisation? Does everyone have access to business and strategic information? Are there forums that allow people