Execution as Learning

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Contributed by: Mattia Pennacchietti

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What is Execution as Learning? Meaning.

In the knowledge economy, flawless execution of work processes can not any more guarantee lasting success and financial results. Instead of this, Amy C. Edmondson argues todayís central managerial challenge is to "Inspire and enable knowledge workers to solve, day in and day out, problems that cannot be anticipated".

The Execution as Learning approach aims to radically change the traditional vision of Execution as Efficiency. Execution as Learning shows a totally different organizational mind-set, focused not so much on making sure a work process is carried out, but on helping it evolve (Compare: Kaizen) into day-to-day work in 4 phases (Compare: Deming Cycle):

  1. Prepare the guidelines for processes and procedures. First of all, you need to find the best practice, consulting books, experts, and even competitors. Everything begins from the definition of standard processes. The aim is not to produce efficiency, but aid the development of learning (Compare: Organizational Learning).

  2. Give the workers the chance to collaborate in real time. As far as accurate the planning phase can be, the cognitive work requires to take collective decisions for complex and unexpected problems. Therefore, in the knowledge economy, itís fundamental to help the direct collaboration. This can be achieved through the institution of a forum for the creation of personal network and opportunities of formation to enhance the skills in the team work.

  3. Gather data on processes. The Execution as Efficiency focuses only on data about the performance , while the Execution as Learning pays the same attention to the data about processes that describe how the work is carried out. As a result, there is a precious feedback for the manager who can establish the way to improve the processes and consequently improve the performance of these.

  4. Understand what works and what doesnít work. To achieve this goal, there must be a disciplined reflection, using the resources which are temporarily deducted from the production processes; according to the traditional managerial approach, this decision might be seen as a loss of productivity.

Strengths of Execution as Learning. Benefits

  • Solutions to the problems are discovered by employees working in teams. Compare: Action Learning.
  • Work processes carry on evolving. The company gets used to changes, experiments and improvements.
  • The feedback is two-way: both managers and members of the team give assistance and advices to each other.
  • Valuable information is provided to guide employees judgment.

Limitations of Execution as Learning. Disadvantages

  • Time and resources must be allocated to activate all the phases of Execution as Learning.
  • If companies decide to award the team or the group with the best performance, workers may want to protect and not share their suggestions or their ideas.
  • Psychological security and confidence in the workplace is needed.

Source: Harvard Business Review July 2008 - The competitive Imperative of Learning

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Compare with: Action Learning  |  Organizational Learning  |  Kaizen  |  Deming Cycle  |  Training Within Industry  |  Balanced Scorecard

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