Learning Culture - moving beyond "too busy to improve"
A frequent comment on the Voice of the Customer survey was "Company is keeping us multitasking to the point there is little time for improvement or knowledge gains." This is a complaint that really resonates with me, as a learning culture is a quality culture and one that fosters excellence. We've heard again and again that learning is job number one for work of the future. Yet, the urgency of work easily trumps learning. It can be difficult to carve out time for learning in the inexorable flow of daily tasks. We are all experienced with the way learning ends up being in the lowest box on the 2×2 Eisenhower matrix, or however you like to prioritize your tasks.

For learning to really happen, it must fit around and align itself to our working days. We need to build our systems so that learning is an inevitable result of doing work.

So how do we as quality professionals bring this to bear in our organizations?
2 Replies

Learning is a very effective lever for system improvement. It gives us the power to add, change, evolve or self-organize system structure; and can also start giving us ways to change the paradigm  and eventually even transcend paradigms. There are a few principles I think we need to have:

  1. Make sure our learning and knowledge management systems are built into everything we do. Make them easy to use. Ensure content is shared internally and leads to continuous improvement.
  2. Ensure learning is valued.
  3. Plan for short-term wins. There is no nirvana, no perfect state. Ensure you have lots of little victories and shareable moments. Plan for this as part of your schedules and cycles
At the same time we are building learning into our systems I think there are some things we can model as individuals.
  1. Practice mindfulness. As you go about your daily job be present and aware, using it as an opportunity to ability to learn and develop. Don’t just sit in on that audit; notice and learn the auditor’s tactics and techniques as you engage with her. Ask product managers about product features; ask experts about industry trends; ask peers for feedback on your presentation skills. These kinds of inquiries are learning experiences and most peers love to tell you what they know.
  2. Keep a to-learn list. Keep a list of concepts, thoughts, practices, and vocabulary you want to explore and then later later explore them when you have a few moments to reflect. Try to work a few off the list, maybe during your commute or at other times when you have space to reflect.
  3. Build learning into your calendar. Many of us schedule email time, time for project updates, time to do administrative work. Make sure you dedicate time for learning.
  4. Share meaningfully. Share with others, but just don’t spread links. Discuss why you are sharing it, what you learned and why you think it is important. This blog is a good example of that.
I would love to hear of examples of how you are making learning happen in your organization.