This is a response to the Learning Circuits Big Question of the Month for June (#LCBQ) – How do we break down organizational walls when it comes to learning? Here are 9 ideas for breaking down organizational walls:
1. Align Learning to Business Priorities
If you’re working on items that are not important to the goals of the company, you will not (and should not) make any progress. Are your learning initiatives aligned to the priorities of the company? If not, try creating a Learning Steering Committee. This should be the first thing you do if something similar to this is not already in place.
2. Use Business Language
If you’re not speaking the same language as your customers and partners, walls won’t come down – they’ll stay up or go up when they see you coming. Learn about your business. Talk to people in product development, sales, operations, distribution. Do you know:
- Your most profitable products or services?
- How your company makes money?
- How your company is performing this QTR, year?
- How your customers view your company?
- If you are growing, shrinking?
- Who are your top competitors?
3. Create Small Wins
Find a small project or initiative that involves more than 1 department or area. Don’t worry if it’s not the most important initiative (I’m not suggesting wasting your time on frivolous projects). Just get something started that partners are willing to open up and learn. This helps build confidence and can be leveraged for bigger initiatives with more meaningful impacts.
4. Start a Book Club
Try starting a reading club that involves more than 1 business area or department. This gets people from other areas to discuss important topics and learning together. Schedule for lunchtime so people can attend, bring their lunch and relax. These conversations might lead to other important learning and business conversations outside of the book club. Try to enlist a senior leader to lead a discussion.
5. Keep a Sense of Humor
Take your business and learning seriously, but not yourself. Work is stressful and many times co-workers have competing priorities. Try to acknowledge the “we’re all in this together” mind set. You can work on serious issues and have fun too.
6. Don’t Push Your Learning Agenda
If you work for a company, people are not learning for the sake of learning. So, don’t make it about learning. Make it about helping people achieve their business goals. See where there are cross departmental opportunities. How can you help?
7. Talk Over Coffee
Sit down and have a conversation over coffee (or your beverage of choice). Sometimes a 5-10 minute conversation can bring better results than multiple meetings. People are more open minded and are in a better place to make things happen. This doesn’t have to be scheduled. Ask your partner “want to go grab a coffee”? Use what feels right for you and your organizational norms.
8. Don’t Make it All or Nothing
We all know that learning is just 1 of the many components that contribute to performance. If you have an opportunity to better the organization and it is not 100% learning, don’t just push it away. Own the learning components and help your partners find solutions for the other components.
9. Publicly Thank Partners for Their Support
Do you have a partner or customer that that goes above and beyond for learning? Have a “learning appreciation” event where you acknowledge people for their continued commitment to learning. Find a senior leader who will help lead and publically appreciate their efforts.