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Supporting Personal Development in a Learning Organization

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Organizations learn through their employees. To enable adoption of agile ways of working, organization have to support the personal development of their employees.

Dave Moran wrote a blog post titled become a learning organization, not a copycat in which he states that supporting agile requires developing a learning organization:  

The people in a learning organization have certain qualities, as pointed out by Peter Senge in his book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization. The key attribute of people in a learning organization is that people are seeking personal mastery – striving for a “special level of proficiency.”

In a learning organization people are continuously learning and developing themselves:

To foster a learning organization it is critical that management support learning by facilitating ways to spread knowledge laterally. Toyota calls this yokoten. And one of their ground rules is that the person who has learned something new or has discovered a way to improve a practice is responsible for sharing this knowledge.

Anders Ivarsson wrote about personal development at Spotify. To provide career opportunities to their employees, Spotify has created “add-ons”:

Add-ons are a way to explore new skills and responsibilities outside your normal role. Instead of looking at career as a ladder where you move from one role to another, it becomes a tag cloud where each tag is a skill or area of responsibility that you can add to your normal role long term or short term.

A good example of an add-on that serves both the individual and Spotify is the speaker add-on. If you have the speaker add-on, you spend part of your time presenting at conferences around the world. You also get speaker training so you can develop your speaking skills and represent Spotify even better. This way, speaking becomes part of your responsibilities and you do that along with your normal duties.

In a blog post about nurturing and investing in people, Simon Cromarty shared the manifesto for personal development and career progression at Red Gate:

We believe that:

  1. Continual development is a good and necessary thing for everyone
  2. People are different shapes
  3. There is no single “career path”
  4. Job titles are not the answer
  5. A ‘direction of travel’ is important
  6. Personal development is a shared endeavor
  7. If you’re new in a role, focus on the basics

These 7 items are further described in their personal development manifesto.

In developing a learning Culture: intro to the personal A3 template, Ryan Olivett described an A3 template for personal learning. This template, based on A3 problem solving from Toyota, can be used to create a learning culture where employees take ownership for their own personal development:

Employees develop Personal A3s to encourage them to think strategically about their strengths and passions in order to develop a career roadmap to track and plan career improvement activities. Ultimately, it encourages employees to continuously improve their skills. Employees select mentors and partners to help facilitate the process and provide feedback.

What does your organization do to support personal development in becoming a learning organization?

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