Friday, March 16, 2012

Obstacle to becoming a Learning Organization: Fear

In previous blogs we discussed the first major obstacle to becoming a learning organization, too busy. There will never be a time when everyone has time to learn together. So make the time. And be stubborn about it! 

In this edition, we'll discuss the another obstacle-FEAR.  Our goal is to evolve into a learning organization so that we can Develop our People and Partners (P2, my favorite P).  

It is possible there is a fear of failure. On the part of the teacher (you) and the students (your employees). Your fear is that we are investing a lot of money to get big groups of people together to start the process of learning together.  What if they don't like it?  What if it was a waste of time? What will I talk about? The fear your students may have is that they may not get it or they heard there would be quizzes. This fear can manifest itself as silence, ambivalence or anger. When we began our company-wide learning sessions, it was quickly evident by where people sat that some perceived themselves as smart, and others perceived themselves as either dumb or dis-interested (in the back row). Participation in the early weekly lessons was not great. Many looked at the wall or the ground instead of making eye contact with me. It took many months before I actually saw some eyeballs.. The prevailing sentiment early on was "why do I have to be here". Stay with it!!!  Persistence is the key. The NEW way of doing business is that we are a learning organization, and part of what we do together is learn.

Make your learning a safe place for people. In our case, we did give "take home" quizzes each week, based on a chapter of Lean Thinking or The Toyota Way. I check in with people during the rest of the week to find out how they are doing. I help them with quiz questions they may be having problems with. Many times I would do the entire quiz if it meant I could spend time with a person in our company.  I believe in giving quizzes, because it allowed me to know who needs help. Once people get used to taking the open book tests, then we moved to closed book in class, and people corrected them in class themselves. By our 3rd or 4th month of classes, everyone took the quiz and handed it in, and I corrected them. Then part of my standardized work would be to hand them back out to everyone, and go over any questions they missed.  By this time, people understood how important learning was to the future success of the company, and they realized what the purpose of the quiz was. In class, they were not only showing me their eyeballs, but actually having fun. Kidding each other. Tutoring each other. The one hour per week flew by. The dynamics changed. Self imposed limitations were lifted. People became better and better readers, quiz takers and learners. People who always sat in the back sat in the front. Departments that always sat together spread out. People learned to love and respect one another. This showed up in their continuous improvement activities all around the company. Plus they were used to being and learning together. 

My fears were unfounded. Your curriculum can be lean tools, your company philosophy, books or articles, whatever. People will give you feedback so you will get better and better at it. Challenge others to take the reins when you're on vacation! Never let a week go by without this learning together as an organization. Sooner or later, everyone will understand that they are VITAL part of a learning organization!!!

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