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Learning AND work – an accidental discovery

Posted By Philippa Hale, 21 October 2015

I have been focusing a lot of my recent work with clients on how to bring learning back into the workplace.  This is driven by the fact that in the ITDigital world these days, there is less and less time available for conventional training but an ever increasing need for continual learning. 

I have discovered some excellent tools that encourage and enable learning on the job, and sharing learning, in particular, FuseUniversal, which combines the best of Youtube, Linkedin, FB and Google into an incredibly easy-to-use tool that instantly got my team swapping links, ideas, discussing questions and creating their own mini-videos using their mobile phones, which they have found far more fun and motivating to actually do that the dreaded ‘documentation’.

However, I am still an advocate of face-to-face whenever possible, even video conference or audio if used properly (right etiquette on speed, clarity, simplicity, length of presentation and careful listening to ensure understanding …) is better than any written tool as at least you can hear the tone of voice.  Research tells us that we hear around 80% of the message in the other person’s tone of voice, the words make up only 20% of the message, and we easily pick up when the tone doesn’t match the words.  A smart team member or manager will then diplomatically ask something like, ‘Are you sure you are ok with this?  I’m sensing something may be bothering you.’   It may be an assumption but how many far worse assumptions do we make based on a few words in an email? And at least we can check.

As well as looking at the new tools available, I also looked back at some research into learning and communication I did over 10 years ago.

In 2004 I did some research into successful knowledge sharing across diverse groups within the IT function of a UK Building Society.  I brought together Developers, Testers, Business Analysts, Service Support and Project Managers and inadvertently sparked a chain of learning/working activities which I now include in all my client projects, and will be able to combine with this new technology too.

We used an Action Research technique, where people from each specialist team came together for 3 half-day group sessions.

Session 1 - I introduced the project and proposed a set of questions for us to debate based on the objectives of my research project.  These were refined by the group and discussed. I wrote up the initial findings

Session 2 - I presented these back to the group for a second round of discussion, then wrote up and shared the final findings and recommendations – my own and the groups’

Session 3 – Was at the invitation of the group – could we do a second round of discussion because, although the groups appreciated the findings, they LOVED the Action Research sessions themselves, where they talked to people from other teams.  The knock-on effects were very useful indeed, as they had a new and strengthened network of people they could go to in the other teams to solve problems earlier and faster.   They said they felt they were:

  • Doing something challenging, a bit different and useful
  • Had a sense of being listened to and their ideas valued
  • Seeing an immediate feedback loop – in the session itself and also back at work
  • The leadership and facilitation of the sessions enabled the group to go from polite stand-off with a hint of cynicism to openness, collaboration and a surprising level of trust in just 3 short sessions
  • It was fun and they didn’t notice time passing.  A symptom of being in the ‘flow’.

Though there was no specific instruction to do so, they started to run similar sessions themselves.  Some used the techniques as a new way of running team meetings, others as part of project kick-off workshops or group working sessions on change programmes, with clear impact on project team working and delivery.

I am running a masterclass on ITSM Leadership on 29th October 2015 with Jean Gamester, and we will be exploring and demonstrating some of these techniques along with others so do join us if you are interested in this area. For more information or to book this masterclass please click here.

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