Every summer thousands of young kids receive their first bike. It’s a big deal. Many of you probably have memories of this very time in your life. Maybe you remember picking out the bike, or maybe you remember being surprised with it as a gift. However you arrived at having the bicycle, the next step in your journey was learning to ride it. Think back on this process for a moment. How did it work? What where some of the key elements involved in this classic learning experience? Most likely it involved someone assisting you in your first ride, coaching you along the way. This coaching process probably included a good portion of you ridding and a good portion of you reviewing how things went . This review is a critical piece of learning, isn’t it? What went well? What could go better better? How could you improve? Pedal faster? Be more confident perhaps?
The ability to review and reflect openly is also a key attribute of effective learning organizations. These types of organizations gather regularly, formally and informally, to talk about how things are going and how projects are progressing. These are candid conversations, not just another meeting. Without the ability to review progress and results, learning is simply impossible. Great learning organizations have coaching leaders that are skilled at leading these review sessions, but this is not the only type of reflection that takes place. Reflection that is driven from the top down can only be so effective. Truly great learning organizations have a culture of reflection that permeates through the daily activities at every level. Employees are engaged with each other in these reflections as well, and there is an open and candid atmosphere that drives organic growth.
Truly great learning organizations are built upon a entrenched culture of candid reflection and review. Here are few keys and tips for developing review and reflection:
1. If it doesn’t exist already, don’t expect it to come easily. Review, at first, seems uncomfortable and unnatural. Develop a regular and consistent time to review and reflect with your staff as you begin introducing it.
2. When introducing review and reflection, be sure it is in a controlled environment with limits on time and scope. Without caution and control, review can quickly become simple criticism.
3. Consider trust building exercises on your team to increase openness and candidness. Quality review requires a lot of trust that everyone is working towards the same goal.
4. Make sure goals and objectives are very clear. It is difficult to learn when there is confusion about what needs to be accomplished.
5. Be sure that review, learning, and reflection is valued amongst all senior staff. This means senior leaders must be open to learning opportunities. There is no place for ego in learning organizations.