Supporting self-managed team learning in the organisation

Screen Shot 2013-03-11 at 13.12.15This is a post in a series that I  am writing about how the future role of L&D is moving from “packaging  learning” to “scaffolding learning”.

In the first post I explained that “packaging learning” involves organizing and wrapping up everything an individual needs to learn in a neat parcel, delivering it to them on a plate, and making sure they do it, whilst “scaffolding” is about supporting learning in many other less top-down organized ways.

In my last post I talked about a move from “packaging instruction” to “scaffolding instruction”. But what these both have in common is that they are still a “managed learning” process .

In this and my next post I am going to look at self-managed learning in an organization, and how that might be supported and scaffolded. Today I’m going to look at “supporting self-managed team learning”, and next time I will consider ”supporting self-managed personal and professional learning”.

Team learning is essential in any organization, for as my colleague, Harold Jarche points out, quoting Peter Senge.

“It is team learning, not individual learning, that adds to organizational learning.”

MM910001094But let’s be clear from the outset, supporting self-managed team learning is neither about packaging nor scaffolding instruction, rather it is about helping teams to organize and manage their own initiatives.

So supporting self-managed team (or social) learning  is not about providing them with courses as they do their work, helping them to find their own courses, or even helping them to create their own courses for one another – rather it is about helping them to share their knowledge, experiences, ideas and resources as part of their daily workflow. It is, as my colleague Charles Jennings, puts it about helping them to extract learning from work, not trying to add or inject learning into work.

Supporting self-managed team learning is also about working in partnership with teams – either to address and support specific performance problems or to build or enhance existing sharing practices.  So it will not involve designing a programme of instruction for a team, but rather will comprise a quite different set of “scaffolding” activities undertaken in conjunction with the team, which include:

  • Understanding the sharing practices that are currently taking place  – or not.
  • Considering how these could be enhanced or built upon, or developed.
  • Considering whether any technology could underpin knowledge sharing, and if so identifying appropriate technologies, preferably employing existing collaboration technologies or enterprise social networking that are being used to underpin the work (so a separate LMS is not the appropriate technology)
  • Helping to provide the right conditions for ”team learning”, e,g. by helping to develop a culture of sharing and the value of sharing,
  • Helping the individuals in the team to share – e.g. to create resources/job aids, curate links to share, share experiences or thoughts, and narrate their work – not by training them to be social, by showing them what it is to be social!
  • Helping the individuals to manage their own knowledge – through a continuous process of seek-sense-share
  • Helping to ensure knowledge sharing is part of the daily workflow  – so it is not seen as an extra initiative – but an integral part of daily work.
  • Helping to identify appropriate performance metrics to measure success –  not by using traditional learning metrics or even social activity metrics – but in terms of actual job, team or business results.

There are an increasing number of examples of how L&D are supporting self-managed learning using new social technologies. An early one was the BT Dare2Share project, where L&D helped engineers to develop their own resources and share them with one another.  Another example is  Q&A’s internal Sales365 collaboration platform, which has recently won two Gold awards, and which was a collaborative initiative by both the L&D department and the Sales Team.

But successful initiatives in supporting self-managed team learning are not just about implementing new social technologies; they also involve developing a range of new social workplace worker skills.

Workers will need a new range of skills to be effective in a digitally connected workplace, e.g.

  • Personal Knowledge Management skills – how to build develop a network of people and sources of information to draw from on a daily basis and how to make sense of the information, and share it appropriately
  • Social collaboration skills –  how to work and learn collaboratively and productively in a team
  • Community manager skills – how to build and maintain a successful community of practice
  • Connected Leader skills – how to lead a team in today’s networked, complex workplace

If you want to find out more about all these new skills, you can do so  at the Connected Worker site

And learning professionals who wish to get involved in supporting self-managed learning in the workplace, will also need these new connected worker skills so that they can help others. As I said earlier, it’s not about telling others to be social, but helping hem to be social!. So for this reason we’ll shortly be releasing details of a new initiative which will help to  build (and also certify) these key, new L&D skills.

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Jane Hart

Founder at C4LPT
Jane Hart is an independent workplace learning advisor, writer and international speaker. She is the Founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies. Her recent book Modern Workplace Learning: A Resource Book for L&D is now available, which she supports with a range of online workshops. Find out more about Jane at JaneHart.com.

25 thoughts on “Supporting self-managed team learning in the organisation

  1. Pingback: What about learning how to learn socially?

  2. Ralph

    Great Post Jane… Spot on…

    I do think and agree that L&D folks can no longer ”instruct” others on how to learn and what needs to be learned ( cascading content) unless it’s compliance based training ( ethics, Security training etc…)..even this training is becoming more immersive with virtual 3d bsed technology…

    Agreed that the focus should now be on open learning and help facilitate conversations in communities. ( social learning, communication and collaboration)

    About this new L&D approach

    It’s about many things… like doing our best to see others succeed! and that’s outside of classroom walls…

    It’s about overseeing the creation of networks and communities, and it’s about the celebrating the emergence of leaders amongst communities, and it’s about praising them for taking the leap in embracing a new learning approach too… this takes time and conditioning… trial and error too

    IMO, a great way to this, as a L&D person, is to walk the talk before, learn socially from communities, grow networks and tell the tale… talk about our personal ROI… to spark the interest of others, and in turn, help them do the same ( facilitate) …

    indeed, Modeling vs. Shaping…

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  4. hksvensson

    This article is 100% correct about WHAT to do but I think it misses the HOW a bit. I my opinion it’s all about Transparency.

    Lets start with this: “Helping to identify appropriate performance metrics to measure success – not by using traditional learning metrics or even social activity metrics – but in terms of actual job, team or business results.”

    This is supported by Josh Bersin in the “Predictions for 2013”:
    “standalone learning measurement is becoming less
    interesting. Companies should take their learning measurement group
    and integrate it with teams that measure talent, leadership, engagement
    and workforce planning.”

    I think that this is the real WHAT and that the HOW is through Transparency. Transparency is the HOW-key to unlock the WHAT. This is teamperformance/learning we’re talking about, isn’t it? If the team could get a transparent view of their budget, their performance, their goals and have these in black and white monthly it would give them the _possibility_ to see where things aren’t as good as they could be and the _incentive_ to share best practice, pitches, material, documentation, theories etc.

  5. hksvensson

    Well, yes of course! And I believe you’re doing a good job at it as well. My comment is that it’s not enough “telling others to be social, but helping hem to be social”. I think we must take it one more step and MOTIVATING them to be social. Showing the performance gains, giving them incentive to sharing.

    1. Jane Hart

      Clearly – and that’s a big part of “Helping to provide the right conditions for ”team learning”, e,g. by helping to develop a culture of sharing and the value of sharing,”

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  12. Ara ohanian (@aohanian)

    Jane, thank you for drawing attention to an under-represented but vital part of organizational learning. Self managed team learning is essential for productivity as you say, yet is often disregarded by corporate L&D functions. Why do you think this is? Is because our educational systems focus on the individuals rather than on a team and so we have few models for supporting team learning?

    1. Jane Hart

      I think we have traditionally focused on individual learning because (a) it has been easier to do so, and with e-learning it has become automated. It has also been difficult in the past (technologically) to support knowledge exchange by teams, but of course now with the new social technologies that has all changed. Additionally (b) individual learning has always been seen as something SEPARATE from work (you go somewhere else to train), whereas team learning is an integral part of working, and pretty indistinguishable from work. So (c) this may not interest traditional training/L&D departments who want to be able to “isolate” (and measure) their own activities, rather than support collaborative working and learning, where success cannot necessarily be attributed to any particular intervention – but may be the result of a sum of interventions.

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