People tend to be resistant to big changes, so transforming your organization’s learning culture is going to require a strategic approach. Easing into a new learning model is smoother if your team challenges old assumptions about their work and company leaders create the freedom for people to learn from missteps along the way.
For starters, to help ease the transition into a new learning model, you’ll need everyone in the company to understand the challenges to the old, classroom-based model. Eliminate the assumption that once you’ve heard information, you know what to do with it. That’s an oversimplified approach to learning that doesn’t truly match up with how the human brain functions and it creates unrealistic expectations for traditional training programs. Challenging those old assumptions has to happen across the organization, starting with company leaders and spreading to the team members who institute changes on a daily basis through their work.
Next, create the space and time for team members to learn new skills on the job, and give them the freedom to fail. If you’re unfamiliar with agile principles, providing employees room to fail at work might seem like a terrifying prospect. Our work culture has been conditioned to think that failure in all forms leads to lost revenue and possibly much larger damage to our company’s reputation. But those fears don’t take into account that people learn faster and better through their failures than their successes. It’s shortsighted to send employees to a training course and expect they’ll immediately apply what they’ve learned without mistakes. If your employees fear the consequences of failure, they’re far more likely to simply revert to old, inefficient ways of doing things.
Of course, you don’t want to fall into the habit of celebrating failure for failure’s sake. Team members should be allowed to take a hands-on approach to their work so they’re learning new skills every time a product or service iteration happens. If a product iteration turns out to be a failure, they should immediately be able to identity why it failed and explain precisely how to improve the product for its next release. A successful learning model needs to have a regular feedback loop where your team honestly assesses what’s working and what’s not. If you don’t have that feedback loop, you don’t really have the new learning model you’re claiming.
Suppliers need to provide educational feedback, too. Often, suppliers have an assumption that everyone “speaks the same language” or has the same values about work. In reality, even though the words are the same, the interpretation is very different. To avoid that miscommunication, there needs to be a step in the process of engaging with a supplier where vocabulary is validated and proactively normalized. If that step doesn’t happen, there might be a rude awakening down the line. Company leaders should view the cost of educating suppliers about the company’s way of approaching work as economically viable and representing a significant savings over the waste of resources that could occur otherwise.
Every step in transitioning to a new learning model should have the intention of demonstrating what’s possible to your team. Take the time to document the transition so current and future team members are able to see how much progress they’ve made. The best way to maintain a new learning model is to make it evident that the entire organization is benefitting from your improved approach.