Leading Change using a Learning & Growth Strategy

Most leaders struggle at some point in leading change. One of the major reasons for this is that at the heart of change are people. If people don’t learn and grow, then this will severely limit organizational change and growth. For example, many organizations that utilize such approaches as the Balanced Scorecard get stuck when it comes to the Learning and Growth (L&G) perspective…with few truly relevant and effective performance indicators, this L&G perspective cannot be effectively managed, and your entire organizational strategy will be put at risk. Here’s one possible solution to that…

Learning 4 Growth: The 4M Model™
I have for some time now been studying the whole phenomena of how people learn and grow. If you are managing an organization, team or project, this will be of critical importance to you, because when your people stop learning, they stop growing and improving…and so does your team or organization.

The Problem
Many attempts at learning fail or fall short of their objectives because they rely too heavily on classroom and/or online learning to do the job. While many of these learning designs are good in their own right, they fail to deliver because they have very weak, or in some cases non-existent pre-work and follow-up support mechanisms. Put another way, they don’t form part of a comprehensive learning and growth strategy…they ARE the strategy! Neither do they take adequately into account much of the proven theories that make learning and growth successful, such as the role beliefs play in supporting or inhibiting individual and group change.

The Solution
What I have to offer as a solution for all of this is based on solid research. Based on that research and my own experiences in working with teams, I came up with what I refer to as The 4M Learning & Growth Model™.

This model provides a closed-loop approach to learning and growth. It avoids the trap of treating learning as a single event (e.g. a course, seminar or workshop), and provides the structure necessary to ensure that learning and growth actually happens, especially in a world where major distractions occur which very often take us off our learning path. Of particular significance for leaders is the fact that each element in this closed-loop model is measurable…and therefore manageable.

Here’s an overview of that model:

Motivators: In helping people learn and grow, we all need to know at the outset the answer to the question “why are they taking this learning and growth journey?” In some cases the motivation is external, such as “my boss told me to take it; I need this to progress in the organization; I need this to improve my earning power”. In other cases it’s internal, based on the learner’s own values and beliefs. In the case of beliefs, there is considerable evidence available that self-efficacy beliefs i.e. the degree to which I believe I have the capability to perform a task or achieve a goal, play an extremely important role in terms of motivating the learner to take the risks inherent in learning. People with low self-efficacy beliefs are unable to sustain their motivation if they encounter setbacks or failures too early or too often, whereas those with high self-efficacy beliefs can sustain their motivation for longer periods. It is possible to measure self-efficacy.

Also necessary to consider is the direction of motivation, i.e. whether the motivation is towards a goal (gain) or away from a problem (pain). In the case of the latter, if the pain is removed too early, e.g. quick fixes that only deal with the symptoms, then motivation to find permanent solutions wanes…until the problem presents itself again. In the case of the former, if early gains are not achieved, motivation can wane.

Models: We all learn vicariously, so the availability of good role models is essential to any learning effort, especially soft skills. Are role models accessible and not too far above the learner in terms of skill level? (hint: you won’t learn much from watching a professional golfer on tv if you are a complete novice at golf.) Are the role models willing and able to provide guidance to the learner? It is possible to measure the availability of effective role models.

Mentors: How willing and able is the learner’s boss to coach and mentor the learner, especially when they hit the speed bumps on their learning journey? Are communities of learners (for examples Communities of Practice or CoPs) available to provide psychological and emotional support to the learner when they need it most? Like role models, it is possible to measure the availability of effective mentors.

Mastery: How many in-the-field opportunities exist for mastering the new skills/competencies? Using the golf analogy again, while I may be able to improve some aspects of my game on the driving range and practice greens, they are no substitute for getting out on the golf course with other golfers, because that’s where the real world stressors and risks show up. Also, are timely and adequate feedback mechanisms available to correct learner performance? It is possible to measure the availability of in-the-field opportunities to gain experience in and master a competency.

Any attempts at organizational change will require changes in individual behavior, which can be supported through learning and growth strategies. Using the 4M Model™ will add significant value to those strategies.

The 4M Model™ , The 4M Learning & Growth Model™  and Learning4Growth™ are trademarks of Affinity Consulting and Training Inc.