Our latest Knoco newsletter is now freely available for download, and covers the topic of "the ten dimensions of a learning culture".
The ultimate goal of Knowledge Management implementation is for Knowledge Management to become "part of the way we operate" - to become embedded in the culture as well as the business. But what is a learning culture really like?
We have looked in detail at the topic, and see potentially 10 different dimensions to the culture. These dimensions look at the way people think, feel, prioritise and react - they don't look at the cultural drivers. They are therefore measurement indicators, rather than diagnoses, and they allow you to measure culture over time, to see how it changes during the culture change aspects of Knowledge Management implementation.
The 10 dimensions are described below, and you can test your own culture against these dimensions using our free online survey.
- Open vs. defensive. The extent to which people feel comfortable having their performance analysed for learning purposes, including the willingness for their mistakes to be analysed. The flip-side of this is defensiveness (i.e. the sort of behaviours you see developed in a ‘Blame Culture’), so in many ways an open culture is fostered by a “no blame” approach. Openness is also part of taking responsibility rather than avoiding it.
- Honest vs. dishonest. The extent to which people will filter knowledge and information when communicating with peers or seniors. This is sometimes known as ‘transparency’. There is some overlap between openness and honesty (i.e. people sometimes talk about being ‘open and honest’) but dishonesty and defensiveness are subtly different.
- Empowered vs. disempowered. The extent to which people feel able to act on knowledge, independent of approval from their leaders. People take accountability for their own results and for their own learning. A disempowered culture is where you have to ask your manager’s permission, in which case personal learning is particularly difficult. Managers often become involved in managing the small details of their staff’s work. People have to check reports and other material in detail with their manager before they can publish or share them
- Learner vs. knower. The extent to which people put a value on acquiring new knowledge as opposed to the knowledge they already hold in their heads. This distinction was used by AstraZeneca and it’s a very good one. At some level it is similar to the open vs. defensive behaviour and could potentially be a duplicate of that one.
- Need to share vs. need to know. The extent to which people offer their knowledge to others rather than keeping it secret. This isn’t really about openness or honesty; it’s about the level of risk people perceive that is related to sharing knowledge with others. ‘Need to know’, ‘for your eyes only’, ‘top secret’ are all part of the need to know culture.
- Challenge v Acceptance. The extent to which people seek to understand why things are the way they are. It is more about intellectual curiosity than a bias to learn and encompasses a willingness to embrace innovation. You can imagine somebody who never challenges the status quo but is keen to learn when somebody else challenges them. Nobody challenges the status quo.
- Collaborative vs. competitive. The extent to which people identify with and share in the success of others. This is less about awareness of the risks of sharing and more about the way you share in the success of others. It’s more about “I don’t want to share with you because you are in competition with me” than it is about “I don’t want to share with you because there is a risk this knowledge might leak”.
- Remembering vs. forgetting. This is the extent to which people acknowledge and incorporate the past when making plans for the future and the extent to which they consciously record decisions, judgments, knowledge etc. for future reference.
- Strategic patience vs Short termism. This is the extent to which people consider the ‘bigger picture’ and try to understand how their actions fit into the broader, longer term vision for their organisation. ‘Events’ can provoke immediate responses or time may be taken to gauge underlying trends or themes.
- Relentless pursuit of excellence v complacent. This is the extent to which organisations acknowledge there is always room for improvement. Organisations most deserving to be called ‘learning’ ones are those that admit how far they have yet to go. A balance needs to be struck between giving praise where it is due and an honest appraisal of shortcomings, however ‘minor’.