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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Execution - And Building A Learning Organization

Many executives believe that relentless execution—efficient, timely, consistent production and delivery of goods or services—is the surefire path to customer satisfaction and positive financial results.

Yet, according to Harvard professor Amy Edmonson, placing value only on "getting things right the first time", organizations are unable to take the risks necessary to improve and evolve.

However, firms that put a premium on what Edmondson calls execution-as-learning focus not so much on how a process should be carried out as on how it should evolve.

Organizations that foster execution-as-learning provide employees with psychological safety. No one is penalized for asking for help or making a mistake. These companies also employ four distinct approaches to day-to-day work:

  1. They use the best available knowledge (which is understood to be a moving target) to inform the design of specific process guidelines.
  2. They encourage employee collaboration by making information available when and where it’s needed.
  3. They routinely capture data on processes to discover how work really happens.
  4. Finally, they study these data in an effort to find ways to improve execution.

Taken together, these practices form the basis of a learning infrastructure that makes continual learning part of business as usual.

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