On Be(coming) a Learning Organization

September 7, 2010 CollabNet VersionOne

I was lucky enough to attend Scrum Day in Munich this past April.  At this event I had the opportunity to finally do a quick meet and greet with Jeff Sutherland, PhD.  Most people know Jeff as one of the founders of Scrum or in his previous role as CTO of Patientkeeper.

His presentation was about measuring productivity and waste as it relates to putting Key Performance Indicators around your Scrum implementations and showcased successful case studies that included a few system integrators.  I am quite sure a variation of his presentation can be found on the web. In the Q&A session I asked a question around how to making Scrum transformations stick. 

He used a clever analogy that stuck with me and I thought I’d share my understanding of it here.

The analogy was a religious one that involved three types of organizations:

(a)    Organizations that don’t think they have problems  (Hell)

(b)   Organizations that have problems but can’t do anything about them (Purgatory)

(c)    Organizations that actively look to resolve problems (Heaven)

He then went on to state that he preferred working with organizations in Heaven as he saw it as a precondition for stickiness of culture changes.  Since April I have thought about this analogy almost every day.  I have begun asking customers for answers to this critical question as part of my diagnostics.  I have received some interesting feedback from customers on this point.   Where is your team? Your business unit? Your company?

Can you guess which one Jeff said was on the path to becoming a learning organization? Is being a learning organization a prerequisite to having a sticky culture or policy change initiative?   What things does your organization do to ensure that its becoming/being a learning organization?

 Paris, August 2010

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