Making Learning a Part of Everyday Work

Cultivating expertise, in short learning, is critical to building a quality culture. Yet, the urgency of work easily trumps learning. It can be difficult to carve out time for learning in the inexorable flow of daily tasks. We are all experienced with the way learning ends up being in the lowest box on the 2×2 Eisenhower matrix, or however you like to prioritize your tasks.

For learning to really happen, it must fit around and align itself to our working days. We need to build our systems so that learning is an inevitable result of doing work. There are also things we as individuals can practice to make learning happen.

What we as individuals can do

Practice mindfulness. As you go about your daily job be present and aware, using it as an opportunity to ability to learn and develop. Don’t just sit in on that audit; notice and learn the auditor’s tactics and techniques as you engage with her. Ask product managers about product features; ask experts about industry trends; ask peers for feedback on your presentation skills. These kinds of inquiries are learning experiences and most peers love to tell you what they know.

Keep a to-learn list. Keep a list of concepts, thoughts, practices, and vocabulary you want to explore and then later later explore them when you have a few moments to reflect. Try to work a few off the list, maybe during your commute or at other times when you have space to reflect.

Build learning into your calendar. Many of us schedule email time, time for project updates, time to do administrative work. Make sure you dedicate time for learning.

Share meaningfully. Share with others, but just don’t spread links. Discuss why you are sharing it, what you learned and why you think it is important. This blog is a good example of that.

What we can build into our systems

Make sure our learning and knowledge management systems are built into everything we do. Make them easy to use. Ensure content is shared internally and leads to continuous improvement.

Ensure learning is valued.

Plan for short-term wins. There is no nirvana, no perfect state. Ensure you have lots of little victories and shareable moments. Plan for this as part of your schedules and cycles.

Learning is a very effective lever for system improvement. At the very least it gives us the power to “add, change, evolve or self-organize system structure” (lever 4) and can also start giving us ways to change the paradigm (lever 2) and eventually even transcend paradigms (lever 1).

2018 in review – year 1

I started this blog 8 months ago as a way to think aloud about items that were interesting to me and causing me to think about my profession.

The five most popular posts tell me that at least some folks who read this blog do so because they too are interested in similar topics:

SWOT for 2018

Looking back at my SWOT, I can see that it was a very useful tool for charting where this blog would take me. Change, risk, data, quality culture, knowledge management. All the items I spent time thinking about are there. I hope folks go as much use out of my thinking aloud as I did.

In the next few weeks I’ll be trying to utilize a few quality tools to lay out my goals for both this blog and my other professional endeavors in 2019.

As you wrap up 2018 and look forward to 2019, what quality matters are important to you?

What quality matters are on your radar?

What quality system concerns do you have? What are you investing time in figuring out? What are your best practices – the quality solutions you are proud to share?

The site I work at is under a consent decree (fairly late in the process now). I joined because I wanted the experience of building and refining quality systems in that environment and the last five years here have been incredibly rewarding for a whole host of reasons.

I started this blog because I had a whole host of things I wanted to share. It also serves as a reflective tool to refine several ideas that I am working on. The themes of change management, knowledge management, document management, risk management, computer systems and data integrity (amongst other things) are the items I have spent a lot of time on and are some of the topics driving the next stage of my career.

If I was to do a personal SWOT of where I am at (100% my opinions, does not represent anything official), it would look like this (with seasonal fall leaf structure):

SWOT - personal experience

It is not that hard to draw from these to my topics of interest.

I am following a tried-and-true technique, that of thinking aloud, which allows me to reflect upon and clarify the problem and focus on what is next. “Thinking aloud” requires talking through the details, decisions, and the reasoning behind those decisions. This slowing down the process allows me to fully comprehend the problem. This blog then serves to experiment, consider, and then decide upon next steps.

I’ll end this asking the same question I started with: What are your quality system concerns? What would you like to talk about on this blog?

Learning Culture

Over at the Harvard Business Review there is a great article on 4 Ways to Create a Learning Culture on Your Team. A learning culture is a quality culture, and enabling a learning culture should be a key element of a robust knowledge management system.

Frankly, this is an attribute that I think needs to be better reflected in the QBok, as it is a core trait of a successful quality leader. And supporting learning is a core element of any professional society.