Hey folks, Chris Clark here. I just had the pleasure of hosting Jeremy Seligman's free webinar on organizational learning, and thought I might post a few thoughts here now that I've had a few days to reflect. If you haven't had a chance to check out the webinar, you can do so right here!
Thanks so much to the 60 plus attendees who contributed their thoughts and questions. There were so many great questions, as the guy in charge of bringing them forward from the audience, I was chomping at the bit to have Jeremy address them all.
But good news: there's a new forum to do that, and it's a new 6 week online course Jeremy is introducing in September. Check it out!
Here is my one main thought:
Organizations don't learn.
It may feel a little controversial at first glance, but as Jeremy calls out early in his talk, where is the organization? You can't point to it. You can point to the artifacts of culture, the infrastructure, and the people who comprise the system of the organization, but the point stands: the learning is done by the constituent parts of the organizational system, and for something like learning to occur, we have to pay attention to how the constituent parts interact. Structures that support learning are key to progress as an organization.
The problem according to Jeremy is that we usually only pay attention to one constituent part over another. Most organizations put emphasis on structures and processes or the personal growth and development of individuals and teams. It's the rare organization that holds these as parts of a single, inseparable whole.
Your organization's structure is just as important as the individuals and teams going through all those assessments and team-building exercises and training sessions. If we don't pay attention to the structures--the processes, roles, and policies that support our work--what we end up with is a lot of mature people who have just outgrown the structures. You can guess what happens when people reach a ceiling imposed by an unwieldy structure!
Of course, the opposite is just as true. Shift the structures without helping people grow within them, and you end up with a highly evolved system that people circumvent because they haven't grown out of the old habits and ways of thinking that have helped them succeed thus far. We don't grow or change unless we see that the benefit outweighs the cost. Simply introducing structural change--say, a flatter org chart--without supporting learning in people will keep the system from working to its full potential. Or possibly at all.
For those who are new to organizational learning approaches and want to understand the relationship between how people learn and how organizational structures support their growth, I highly recommend the webinar! And of course I can't recommend enough checking out the six week course--navigate over to the website for more details. Jeremy is a warm, thoughtful, and energetic teacher and it really shines through in this talk. Enjoy! And share the love...