Leaders enabling individual learning for continuous improvement

Individual learning and the pooling of that learning is an essential element for continuous improvement.
Leaders have a vital role to play in stimulated and supporting the learning process. Learning can be seen as a process; for this process to be effective the following is required:
1) a focus to plot a course
2) environments that facilitate learning
3) techniques to enable learning to be efficient

An individual will only move through the process comfortably while the driving forces exceed the restraining forces. There is a danger of being stuck and demotivated when the forces are matched. Leaders must attend to the learning process to ensure that the driving forces maintain the upper hand.

The role of leadership in creating a learning environment:

1) Developing and delivering a shared vision of what is expected to raise awareness of the journey
2) Consistent questioning to alert to ignorance; to raise a sense of conscious incompetence that stimulates individual’s learning
3) Developing shared vision of why; the benefits of, learning to promote understanding.
4) Removing barriers, develop ownership, enable and allow risk taking for commitment and enactment.
Throughout, host quality coaching conversations in the workspace to stimulate and support.

(Stimulus for this piece was Bill Buckler ‘A learning process model to achieve continuous improvement and innovation’)

Noticing and building a sense of purpose at Pixar

My reflections on the following article by Ed Catmull in the April 2014 McKinsey Quarterly:


Ed writes of developing a Proactive sense of purpose at Pixar following his discovery that all was not right with the ‘people factors’ within his organisation despite the phenomenal commercial success of ‘Toy Story’.

This sense of purpose is derived from the concept that being on the lookout for problems is not the same as seeing problems.

Therefore proactively ‘noticing’ is better than reacting to the consequences of previously unseen problems.

It is better to discover organisationally ‘consciously incompetent’ rather than suffer from the fall out from ‘unconscious incompetence’.

Such discovery is enabled by leaders asking questions such as:

What are the things (processes that best enable successful interactions) that are being done right?
Can these processes be replicated at other times and other locations?
How are we continually scouting for serious, potentially disastrous interaction problems above/below/around?
Do we know what proportion of success or failure is down to chance?
If we are succeeding; what are the consequences of success; to the individuals/teams/organisation?

Restoring Noticing

‘Noticing’ is a concept developed by John Mason.

‘Noticing’ is a practice which is integral to successful critical reflective practice.
The development of ‘noticing’ begins with a recognition that as an individual you are ‘not noticing’. We all become caught up in the everyday patterns and routines of our practice and whilst these remain largely successful we can fail to realise that we are slipping from unconscious competence into unconscious incompetence; to a point where we are not performing as well as we used to, or could do.
The trigger to begin noticing might be a ‘near miss’ which brings us up short or a comment from a client or a colleague. However, by incorporating ‘noticing’ into your own reflection, the practitioner can become proactive and move on towards conscious competence.
The process of intentional noticing begins internally with the individual but can move to involve colleagues and potentially whole teams.
Begin by keeping an account of not just what you notice in terms of happenings, situations and incidents, but also your internal reaction to them. As you build up a stock of material you will be able to identify threads and patterns to your reactions which will indicate areas for change. At this point you could use a supervision session or 1:1 to talk your findings through or press on alone. Either way, you should then identify a choice for action from a set of alternatives and ‘notice’ what difference or otherwise this new approach makes.
As your skill in ‘noticing’ increases, 2 developments will occur; you will be able to process and prioritise your observations more swiftly and ‘mark’ some notices for deeper analysis. Secondly, you will become more adept at imagining possible alternatives and how these might be tested. Once again, it may be helpful to use these marked notices and courses of action as the basis for a supervision session etc.
As time passes you will have accumulated a good deal of evidence of improvement which can be shared with a wider set of colleagues, perhaps in a team meeting. Begin by giving an account of what you noticed, followed by an account for what you noticed. This build will allow you to test your perspective with a range of views and for you to make a more considered response to what you ‘notice’.
Noticing is then an aid to both individual and team development.