"Oh this learning - what a thing it is..."

Most of us would not disagree with this wonderful exclamation by William Shakespeare from "The Taming of the Shrew" - Act 1 Scene 2.

Yet in the fast-paced environment in which we find ourselves, high quality learning is not enough. It's about helping teams to use their combined learning in a creative way to focus on new solutions and outcomes.

Organisations don't want training and development initiatives!

In some ways this is like the flash of inspiration that led Black & Decker, the world's largest producer of power tools and accessories, to realise that their customers did not want to buy a drill! What they really want is a hole somewhere, or even more fundamentally they may just want something attached to the wall. Unfortunately they have discovered that they cannot go into their local DIY store and by a bag of holes, and therefore buying a drill is the only alternative.

In a faced-paced environment the dual challenge facing leaders and their teams is how to balance: running the business (operational effectiveness) with transforming the business (change capability). As a result, more and more of our work is about sustainable learning, where the emphasis is on helping leaders at every level to energise/engage their teams in learning and capitalise on this learning to address new business challenges.


We know of so-called Learning Organisations who are encouraging their people to carry out Personal Development Planning. Yet the leadership of these organisations have not made their intentions clear about the purposes of these or the link with business performance. Nor has the nature of this development process been fully described, and as a result expectations that are unlikely to be met have been raised. These are not necessarily expectations of promotion but expectations that line managers will willingly and enthusiastically contribute to this development process.

The enthusiasm of the HR people for "PDPs" is not mirrored by line managers. Confusion in these circumstances has left frustration and cynicism, which are not a good foundation for a Learning Organisation.

Energised and Engaged Teams

Our research clearly identifies that individual and team learning is energised when the focus shifts:

Low Priority
High Priority
Learning led
Performance led
Feed me, "lazy"
Effort - working at it
Good enough
Perfection - getting it right

And Line Managers have a key leadership role in achieving this by developing:

Commitment: Helping team members to understand the business goals, shape their own learning goals accordingly and believe that they can make a difference.

Confidence: Giving team members the courage to walk towards challenges and try new ways.

Energy: Being clear about what the performance outcome from learning will look like and positively encouraging team members when they are working in a new way.

Competence: Spending more time developing team members and continuously exploring ways for them to utilise their full potential.

Capitalising on Learning


At a recent meeting the Managing Director of a major engineering company declared:

"Our business plan changes dramatically every year and teams have to "turn-on-a- sixpence" to solve new challenges every day, so a development process that takes 18 months is useless to me."

In his Harvard Business Review article twenty years ago: "Teaching Smart People How To Learn", Chris Argyris introduced the concept of Single and Double-Loop Learning.

One of the key messages is that many change situations don't require new development, but the use of existing skills, knowledge and experiences in new ways. Our research is full of examples where the effectiveness of individuals and teams has been significantly increased to cope with new challenges, through effective team coaching and facilitation, without any additional off-job development.

In this summary, we have developed Mode 1 and Mode 2 statements to illustrate our view of the shift required:

Type of Learning
Mode 1
Mode 2
1. Knowing about:
data, facts information & where to access it
Absorbing information
Re-working information
2. Knowing about:
procedures, techniques, competencies etc.
Adherence to procedures
Adapting and/or trying something new
3. Knowing why:
concepts, "maps", insights, theories, models
Being able to explain why things do/don't work
Making connections and widening understanding
4. Knowing what:
it's like for me.
Knowing who I am.
Sensing and knowing yourself
Being yourself
5. Knowing what:
I need to do around here, who we are, "the ropes".
Followership and conformance
Membership and conviction

The question is: how much organisational learning is "stuck" in the Mode 1 box? Here the team coaching role is about facilitating team members to re-work, adapt, make connections and widen their understanding.

We have developed two highly interactive one-day workshops to expand on this thinking and provide practical solutions that can be applied immediately. They can be tailored to fit organisational needs and are suitable for:

Line Managers - who, as part of their leadership role, need new Team Coaching skills.

HR Developers - growing their role from "training deliverer" to "learning & development partner".

For more information on Wadenhoe research, case studies, tools and workshops, please contact Ray Atkinson at: ray@wadenhoeconsultancy.com.

The Wadenhoe Consultancy Ltd

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267 Banbury Road

Phone: 01865 339558
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Fax: 01865 339301
Email: ray@wadenhoeconsultancy.com
Web: www.wadenhoeconsultancy.com

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©2012 The Wadenhoe Consultancy Ltd