December 14, 2017

Does personal mastery mean perfect mastery?

Nelson MandelaIn a word, “no,” not in my map, anyway. It’s tempting to think personal mastery means complete command of a subject or indeed oneself. But that’s an ideal rather than a reality, even for the most accomplished.

Rather, mastery means an acceptance of responsibility to be the best we can be, to own what we manifest in our lives, and to accept, welcome even, the unending, life-long nature of the learning journey, and to discern correctly the cause we create and the effect it has. Author, Joshua Cooper Ramo said “if you are not seeing things properly, you have no hope of any sort of breakthrough.” To learn, we need to understand our impact on the world around us.

And these are inspirational traits in a leader or a partner or a parent.

That’s what I believe anyway.

What about you?

Is individual learning enough to deliver organizational learning?

You’ve heard it before. You might even have said it yourself…

“Training doesn’t work.”

or

“When I get back to the workplace, I find it very hard to apply what I’ve learned.”

These can be opposite sides of the same coin – a disconnect between individual learning and organizational learning.

The thing is…

We can train as many individuals as we like in new skills, but if the organization doesn’t learn anything, the organization’s overall behavior and performance won’t change.

So what has to happen for an organization to learn?

Peter Senge, a leading authority in this area, would say there needs to be a shared vision of a compelling future; shared models and understanding of how things work; unbiased dialogue; an understanding of the systemic and dynamic nature of things (in which cause and effect may be separated in both time and space); and personal acceptance of both responsibility for outcomes and the need to improve personal performance, which he calls “personal mastery”.

In balder terms, the leaders of the organization need to go on a learning journey together and take a critical mass of the workforce along with them.

Peter’s prescription shows why “gaming” the system can be so damaging to progress because it makes learning by the organization and the wider enterprise impossible. His conditions are not met when players manipulate things for their own ends. Examples are all around.

He also says that the key enabler of the conditions for organizational learning is the quality of the relationships amongst the participants.

So you might like this reminder…

Take care to distinguish between individual learning and organizational learning. If you want the latter to occur, you might need to deliver more than just the former.

And you might like to apply your skill in relationships to the organizational learning on which we all depend.

How strong is the connection between individual learning and organizational learning in your world?

There ain’t no magic bullets

Scottish Parliament ChamberGreat discussion with the team from Unipart led by John Neill, Group Chief Executive of the Unipart Group of Companies at the Business in the Parliament conference in Edinburgh (12 November 2010). John talked about the benefits of a largely employee-owned businesses making learning and development choices for the medium to long term, rather than to meet the short term pressures of the City.

The success of the “Unipart Way” is based on engaging people and taking them on learning journey.  Only 15% of our people are engaged, on average. Meanwhile we have a large productivity “gap” in both the private and public sectors, which, if closed even partly, would completely compensate for the forthcoming reductions in public spending.

Do we need a crisis to get change started? Not necessarily, according to John. Most important thing is to set out a compelling vision of how things can be. To influence others not yet on the journey, show them a working model. That overcomes the difficulty of understanding thing we are being told rather than shown.

Success take practice. An orchestra depends on the 10,000+ hours of work of the individual musicians (see Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers) to play Beethoven’s Ninth (or any other great work). So it is with other organisations. High performance needs a commitment to learning and effort applied to practice.

There ain’t no magic bullets.