It’s that time of year again, when we pay special attention to our personal and career goals. However, how likely is it that we will actually achieve those goals? I belong to a fitness center at the local community college and I’m always fascinated by the January upsurge in activity and then the fall off around March and April each year. Hopefully, that means some people have achieved their fitness and weight loss goals, but I’m afraid that for many it means they have given up. These folks probably haven’t established the processes and relationships that will help them achieve their goals.
Jesse Lyn Stoner makes some excellent suggestions for what we can do in terms of processes and relationships to ensure that we achieve our New Year’s resolutions. You can apply these same principles to organizational learning goals. For individuals, teams, and whole organizations to achieve their learning goals, they need to develop supportive processes and relationships. It’s not enough to identify the knowledge and skills that you want to develop. And it’s not enough to select a method for learning. To apply and sustain that learning, you must also establish processes and relationships that support learning and application of that learning.
Listed below are Stoner’s six suggestions and my explanation of how each one helps in the attainment of learning goals.
1. Start with your current goals.
What new knowledge and skills are you trying to acquire? How has that been going and what can you learn about your own process of learning? Decide if you want to continue to acquire that knowledge and those skills or are you ready to move on to something else. For example, maybe you want to learn how to give negative feedback to your direct reports. Take stock of your ability to do that and whether you need to continue working on that skill and then identify additional learning goals that you need to achieve.
2. Connect your goals to a larger purpose.
Align your goals with the strategic goals of the organization. Be clear with yourself, with co-workers, and with your manager about how acquiring certain knowledge and skills will contribute to the organization’s success. Have a “line of sight” from the learning goal to the performance of the organization. For example, be clear about how learning Lean/Six Sigma will help the organization be successful.
3. Goal setting is not always a logical process.
Don’t get frustrated by the lack of a straight-line process. You might set some goals and then, in talking with your boss and after some experience, decide that those goals need to be modified. And given the pace of change, a learning goal that you set today could be irrelevant tomorrow. However, whatever the goal, have some notion of how you and your boss will know that it has been achieved.
4. Write your goals down and put them somewhere visible.
Writing them down will help you commit to achieving your goals. Keeping them visible will remind you that this is your task and also allow you to modify the goals as needed. The adage, “out of sight; out of mind”, applies here.
5. Don’t keep your goals a secret.
Discuss your goals with your boss and co-workers. You need their support. For example, if you are learning how to run a more effective and efficient team meeting, you need the cooperation of your team members and their feedback. Your boss should be able to provide you with opportunities to practice these team management skills and advise you on what you need to learn and how best to learn it.
6. Set up processes and practices that support your goals.
You’re more likely to successfully achieve your learning goals if you hold yourself accountable and if others hold you accountable. Discuss the indicators of successful learning with your boss and co-workers. Arrange times to regularly check in with them to take stock of your progress.
Organizational learning is not something you can do in isolation. You can identify learning goals but you will need the support and involvement of bosses and co-workers to achieve those goals. As Stoner recommends, establish those processes and relationships at the outset and you will be more likely to follow-through and be successful.