Learning to change

The role of leadership in building a learning organization

A learning organization is the culture key for change readiness. But what is the surest way of knowing whether an organization is wired to learn, adapt and grow?

I have had the opportunity to sit in a handful of leadership teams and worked with a few different boards in my career. I have learnt that a typical conversation in a leadership meeting is the surest reflection of its culture, particularly on whether the organisation is wired for learning and innovation.

When leadership teams obsess about the here and now, when the conversations mimic those of their direct reports, when everything is about how to survive and short-term, you can safely assume that the organization is not yet poised to innovate or evolve, unless it is in a crisis.

There are other board rooms where the leaders are actively talking about the future. They require leadership to foretell far more than one year and create an environment of readiness. They rely on a change system, that is discreet but very visible. There is likely to be constant testing of new products, innovation across departments and many bullets (but very few cannon balls) being fired. You just know the culture of this organization will be to change, grow, adapt. As Collins would put it, they have productive paranoia.

I remember my time in the leadership team at McDonald’s in India. Amit Jatia, was constantly worried about the future. At any point of time we had multiple tests running across growth stores and geographies. Menu, pricing, marketing, operations, technology. There was talk of innovation on cost, business models and even restaurant experience. Sitting in these meetings, one could feel the learning energy of the organization. There was no question that the whole company felt it. Innovation and learning spaces, trials, and tests, were all visible and all stakeholders were constantly acknowledged. All three of Collins magical troika played out: Fanatical Discipline, Empirical Creativity and Productive Paranoia.

Given the famously unyielding focus on operations, volumes and process, McDonald’s would appear to be an unlikely contender to be deft and change ready. But media reports in India suggest that when the pandemic hit the fast-food industry, McDonald’s in India was quick to innovate and respond I am not surprised. In fact, I might have predicted it.

That, in essence is the power of leaders and leadership teams in building culture.

If you’d like to know more, I have put together a blue print for approaching change, from a human centric lens. You can read it here

If you have any thoughts or reactions, do leave them in the comments. I’d be delighted if you wrote to me here or connected with me. At The Core Questin, we believe in the human centric approach and change is an oft recurring theme in our work. Do connect with us if we can help you through your unique leadership journey.

If you have any points to add to this list, I would love to hear from you. Happy to chat more about your own challenge, the role of coaching or how we can help. Do reach out.

About Rameet Arora

Rameet is a highly awarded business leader and marketer, writer, keynote speaker and mentor. He is a co-founder, and leadership coach at The Core Questin

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