Episode 9 – Learning and Continuous Improvement

Welcome to episode 9 of the ELC podcast.  I am your host and intentional leader, Rob Fisher, coming to you from the AEROhp.com Studios in the FIT Center for Excellence, here in Concord, NC!
In the last episode, we described the Seventh attribute of the ELC – Accountability.  I hope listeners immediately used some of the recommendations at the end of the podcast to start making changes in their intentional leadership. By now, you should have downloaded the E-Colors app and are using that information to manage your strengths and potential limiters in your day-to-day interactions. In this episode, I am going to discuss the next attribute of the essential leadership cycle – Learning and Continuous Improvement.  
Years ago, in nuclear power, there was a letter published that stated that the industry had a problem with companies not being a “learning organization.” Now as a member of the team that was studying the problem, we thought that the declaration of this phenomenon was a bit premature and, based on the evidence we had, not an accurate description of the driver of the challenges, but still worth looking at. So what does it mean to LEARN as an organization? Well, learning is more than knowing something. We have probably seen hundreds of examples where an organization knows something but doesn’t DO the right thing, that’s not learning. Working with a major oil and gas support organization was a treat because the leader wanted the team to separate lessons from learning. So many people call things “lessons learned” that it has become quite the buzzword in the industry. But if you really break it down, first we have to give the lesson – in a way that people and the organization understand, THEN we can learn and verify that the knowledge was gained and being used effectively. Very different things. Very different processes. Learning and continuous improvement relies on the initial critical attribute of the essential leadership cycle – self and team awareness.  What do we know and not know, what are the gaps in our knowledge and skills – then we can see where we need to learn so that we can improve. One of the most powerful ongoing processes an organization can use for learning and continuous improvement is the debrief process. In organizations that create a debrief culture, in other words, we know going in that whatever we do is going to get debriefed so that we can learn from it, then learning and continuous improvement can flourish. Since the organization works every day on self and team awareness (of conditions, knowledge, skills, gaps), and they have interactive engagements every day about shared vision and values (did we accomplish our objectives and what went well), and there is a tried and true process in place that gathers the best of the needed information in a short period of time to enable organizational and individual learning, then people start to trust the system and the organization, they offer up their diverse thoughts, processes and opinions on each task, making it easier for them to commit to the overall processes and outcomes that they will hold themselves accountable to. As you can see – it takes every attribute of the essential leadership cycle to enable great organizational learning and continuous improvement that doesn’t rely on an incident to make it work.
In 1992 Senge published some attributes of a learning organization
– Systems thinking, WITH Model, Mental models – GEMS, TTT  
So what can you do? Revisit YOUR self and team awareness related to the attributes of a learning organization. Do we use science-based systems thinking? Do we ensure and enable mastery of the HOP concepts related to individual capacity, task demands, and how we manage that as a team? Do we understand the mental models associated with error and success, and do we use them correctly every day? DO we work every day on engaging to ensure a shared vision and value set? Do we drive the organization to engage in team learning opportunities like Facilitated Improvement Teams to gather the information that enables organizational learning before an incident occurs and last but certainly not least – do we empower and enable a debrief culture that is supported by all fo the elements of the Essential leadership cycle? IF you do these things – your team will learn things the first time, and usually, before something bad happens, that forces you to have to learn it. Until next time…this has been your host, Rob Fisher. Thanks for listening, and, remember Intentional Leadership starts with YOU!
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