« Organizations learn through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. That said, the second can not happen without the first. » – Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline
Transformation, culture change, is rooted in learning. While this may seem obvious when writing or talking aobut change and transformation, it is unfortunately too often forgotten. We know what « change management plans’ comprising a multitude of trainings cascaded throughout the organization. Do they give the expected results? Rarely. Are these results sustainable? Rarely.
Why ? Most of the time, these plans require a change rather than inviting it, leave little room for trial and error and assume that a change in the structure of work and the organization necessarily result in a change in behavior.
In fact, these plans fail to consider the human nature of the organization. Just like human beings, organizations move from childhood to adolescence and adulthood where they reach their peak. In life we all go through crises and it is the lessons learned from these experiences that generate transformations. It’s the same for organizations.
Conditioning or learning?
When planning a major change, a transformation, we offer multiple trainings most of the time. The goal is of course to familiarize people with the desired, or rather required change. Are you able to learn with a sword of Damocles hanging over your head? Yes of course. Although … learning may be very superficial, a kind of conditioning rather than real learning.
To change, people need to understand the relevance and nature of change, feel motivated, know where to start and how to go and finally see efforts recognized and encouraged (the well-known model ADKAR). In other words, real change comes from a decision to change and progressive learning to eventually abandon old ways, old behaviors and create new roots.
In a learning organization, people are not afraid to look bad, they are curious and willing to get out of their comfort zone, they want to go the extra mile and thereby bring the organization to do the same. The climate is favorable :
• we welcome new ideas with curiosity rather than judgment;
• we feel an alignment between people’s values and those of the organization so that people express their perceptions without hesitation;
• we consider diversity as an asset to value, not an impediment;
• meetings are inspiring and dynamic as they are an opportunity to talk, to reflect together, to take action and to learn together
In this kind of organization, leadership is obviously not just a person of authority leading others. Of course, there are formal leaders: members of management. There are also informal leaders: people who have influence, respected by their peers. And there are the emerging leaders, who take the initiative for a project, an idea dear to their heart and then give way to other one-time leaders for other initiatives.
One of the strengths of OpenSpace Agility is that the Open Space meetings create a condensed experience of a learning organization and emergent leadership. Since people learn better and faster from a concrete experience, the transformation of the organization is facilitated and accelerated.
That’s the promise of OpenSpace Agility: create an organization which constantly learns and changes, not a change program. Create a space in which people invest in change, let experiments guide them by drawing conclusions, inspecting and adapting regularly, all the time leveraging the collective intelligence of the organization.