From a culture of mistakes to a culture of learning

From a culture of mistakes to a culture of learning
"Attention! There is currently an outage of the critical system xy in our data center. Unfortunately, the IT department has not yet found a solution for this. We will repeat this announcement every 30 minutes until the problem is solved,"
resounds from the plant's loudspeakers. The IT manager walks hectically and crouched through the company, earns angry and reproachful looks from his colleagues, and wishes himself far away. 

Admittedly, this anecdote comes from the "dark" 90s of the last century. But in some corporate cultures, you still get the feeling that not much has changed since then. Heads still roll when something goes wrong. Problems and mistakes are still hidden and concealed for fear of consequences. There is still the first reaction to a mistake: finger-pointing, assigning blame, looking for scapegoats. 

Agility and learning culture
I hope you are not in such an environment. After all, that can be extremely stressful psychologically unless you are made of very tough stuff. Not to mention the lack of innovation and joy in your work.
From agile teaching we know that openly dealing with mistakes and learning from them is essential for the positive further development of teams, departments and companies, as well as the basis for any innovation. So how do we move from a culture of mistakes to a culture of learning, and deal with mistakes in a more human way?

Culture starts with the individual
As is so often the case, the first step is with ourselves. Observe yourself how you react in situations where something goes wrong. What are your first thought processes? What actions do you take? Especially if you are a leader, your behavior has a massive impact on the behavior of your team. If you primarily blame others, no one on your team is likely to take responsibility either. But if you manage to provide an atmosphere of safety, admit your own mistakes and clearly separate blame from responsibility, this will have a positive impact on your team's self-responsibility. 

Paving the way for a learning culture
Leading by example, in combination with other team-level actions, can provide a push toward a learning culture. Here's some inspiration for agile leaders:

  • Encourage introspection and self-reflection: Encourage your team members to observe themselves closely for a while on a specific question, e.g. How do you behave in situation x? Then reflect on what you observed in the team.
  • Create a constructive and appreciative feedback culture as a basis: Self-reflection serves as the basis for a feedback culture. Team members get to know each other and themselves better. With regular, open and structured feedback in the team, learning effects are also not easily lost.
  • Provide a protected setting: Consider with your team for which situations you would like a protected setting (or space) and also implement this quickly. Ideas for this are: Dress rehearsals for speeches, trade show appearances, presentations, etc. with a feedback session afterwards; a "learning workshop" to try out new methods or techniques; regular "fuck-up sessions" where mistakes and failure are openly discussed; etc. 

If you're now thinking "Easy to say, but how do I implement this?", I have as a tip our workshop "From Failure Culture to Learning Culture". In this 2-hour spotlight we highlight and practice: 

  • Which own attitude is necessary to move from error culture to learning culture.
  • How to move from a victim mindset to personal responsibility.
  • What the most important elements of a learning culture are.

Sounds interesting? Click here for the next dates.