Becoming a Learning Organisation to Ensure Success

Caroline Compton-James, Director for Strategy and Communication for the Construction business at Osborne, talks about becoming a learning organisation.
“Osborne celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and whilst we celebrated this significant milestone, we asked ourselves how we would ensure the success and growth of our business for the next 50 years.

We were asked to achieve this by becoming a learning organisation.  Matthew Syed, (author of Black Box Thinking, and a leading thinker on the science of high performance) and his team spent some time with Osborne earlier this month, giving us an overview of this concept and how we may apply some tools within our business to help us become a learning organisation.

Matthew discussed three key factors to becoming a Learning Organisation:

1. Adopting a growth mindset, rather than a fixed mindset.

2. The creation of successful teams

3. Having a just (or fair) rather than a blame culture

What struck me is that these three factors are interdependent, and rely upon all of us adopting these principles if we wish to become a learning organisation.

I was familiar with the concepts of a successful team and a fair culture, but what really sparked my interest was the challenge to adopt a ‘growth mindset ‘(in contrast to a fixed mindset).  A person/organisation that adopts a growth mindset, learns from mistakes and doesn’t limit success with that well heard opt-out phrase ‘I’m no good at this’ or,’ I can’t do this.’

With technological advances happening all around us, particularly the integration of artificial intelligence into our working lives, the ability to become a learning organisation, to be dynamic and exploit our learning for the benefit of Osborne and our customers becomes more compelling than ever before.

What we are doing differently

I wanted to share two examples of how Osborne is striving to become a Learning Organisation:

STOP Think!

In 2012 a group of Osborne future leaders took on the challenge of driving our AFR to ZERO. The result was a cultural change programme ‘STOP Think!’ which whilst it isn’t unique to the industry, the way it has been implemented is.

The result is a diverse workforce of employees, supply chain partners and customers adopting a growth mindset, who better understand the underlying behaviours that influence their actions and those of their colleagues.  With this knowledge and understanding, they are skilled to influence behavioural change both within themselves and within their colleagues. The programme gives them a greater understanding and respect of individual differences and how that can be used to benefit the overall team’s performance.

Lessons Learnt – and implemented

How often do you hear projects described as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ jobs?  The language we use to our people, and within our teams, affects our mindset.  We reinforce the likelihood of failure by describing a project as a ‘bad’ job.

Key to a ‘growth mindset’ is acknowledging and recognising when projects are in difficulty and then deconstructing these problems into manageable solutions.   We need to ask “How can we learn from our mistakes so we don’t repeat them again?”  To embrace this growth mindset, we must and do continuously assess our performance.  This is where the interdependency with a fair culture is critical.  To change our ‘bad projects’ to ‘good projects’ we have to acknowledge failures and make changes – but in doing so,  work hard to maintain a fair culture,  for it is only when our people feel they are in a safe environment that they will highlight problems.  Having the courage to take these problems and turn them into successes on their current and their next projects is the sign of a growth mindset.

The benefits of being a learning organisation

Over 600 of our customers, suppliers and employees have been through the Stop Think! programme – Network Rail and Highways England have recognised the success and are rolling the programme out across their businesses.

By adopting a growth mindset on each of our projects, we are increasing the likelihood of success.  We are on a journey of embedding cultural change through our business, creating highly performing teams, which in turn makes our customers successful.