“You must understand how to influence the system (behaviours, process and structures) or the system will bring you to fail”
Rapid learning and accelerated knowledge flows are hugely important to organisations interested in quickly sensing/anticipating/managing changes at their boundaries. And, from a pragmatic, practical position, organisations need to accelerate learning/knowledge flows to sense/anticipate/manage better STIQCE (Safety, Time, Innovation, Quality, Cost, Environment “sticky”) challenges.
The problem is that many learning and development or Knowledge Management programs fail to understand the organisation as a system. Such programs fail to see the integrated, interconnected, interdependent nature of the system within which they operate. Worse than this, much of the advice given to these fields encourages isolation. Here I am thinking of “quick win” “project” led approaches that appear under the guise of “pilot projects” – such projects often lack scalability (the ability to be amplified) because the program designers have not thought through how such projects “fit” within the wider system. The result is potential short-term gain, a consultant favourite, followed by predictable mid to long-term dissatisfaction and failure.
This can and needs to be avoided, but how?
Learning and Knowledge programs must find coherence or fit within the wider system. As such, learning and knowledge programs must embrace interdependence between system-wide behaviours, process and structures and their influence on practice. Programs that fail to embrace this interdependence will fail by design – take a moment and think about that.
More often than not, this lack of whole-system thinking leads learning and knowledge programs to grand failure. Such programs start out with the idea of changing the world – in this case, the organisational system – without understanding that to change the system you need to influence system-wide behaviours, structures and processes.
For example, Knowledge Managers want to improve “knowledge sharing” to influence a knowledge sharing culture and so they develop knowledge sharing training sessions for everyone in the system. Not realising that the training doesn’t fit with existing behaviours (e.g. the organisation’s leadership model), processes and structures. The lack of fit produces success, if at all, by luck, not design, and is arguably an irresponsible waste of valuable/scarce resource.
My advice, you must understand how to influence the system (behaviours, process and structures) or the system will bring you to fail.