21st September 2017


I wonder, how much attention do we pay to the environment that we are creating? I am not necessarily referring to the physical environment, such as the space, furniture, design etcetera, although that is undoubtedly important; but the cultural and perhaps spiritual environment.

One of the very best books in my library is ‘The Fifth Discipline’ by Peter Senge. The subtitle reads ‘The art and practice of the learning organisation’ which got me wondering about the environment that we consciously craft or unconsciously fail to craft.

Much of the work that I do with senior teams results in the individuals embarking on a learning journey. As the individuals learn so the team starts to learn, to develop and to improve. Before long there rapidly evolves a learning culture, a learning organisation if you like. As a consequence of that the atmosphere improves and, no surprise, so does business performance. It seems like magic and teams can often become transformed from borderline dysfunctional to focussed and performing well.

Like many things, it doesn’t happen by accident. A carefully crafted environment can contribute so much to the wellbeing of the individuals and the organisation. I was privileged to recently visit a school which is part of an academy group who have found the benefit of consciously crafting the environment. As I walked around I was conscious of many of the things that they were doing to deliberately create that environment. There were noticeboards regularly and strategically placed to convey their values and rules of the game and one of the phrases that stuck with me, after a short visit was to never waste a school day. I must have seen that message half a dozen times in my time there and I couldn’t help thinking of the effect that one concept could have on the students in that school.

Some clients pick a book of the month for all senior leaders to read, critique as a team and to implement the learnings; some others are members of a book club while others allow leaders to buy business books on the company account. All are designed to help create a learning culture and an environment of a learning organisation, where day to day improvement and learning is the norm rather than the exception.

Many other businesses are stuck. The combined knowledge attitudes and skills of the leadership are no better this year than they were last year. The poor decisions that were taken yesterday are likely to be repeated today and tomorrow because no one has taken the trouble to learn anything different, anything new. Any hidden talent remains hidden and the organisation is under optimised. Senge refers to this as ‘learning disabilities’.

Which best describes the environment you influence? Remember a learning organisation rarely happens by accident. Do me a favour. As you influence your environment to improve and to move towards a learning environment drop me a note and tell me what you have done and the effect it has had.