How NOT to create a culture of continuous learning

Photo by Patrick Tomasso / Unsplash

For the past few months, I've had the opportunity to observe an extensive set of teams with a very different way of working than many of the teams I've worked with. One of the things that stood out to me is that while both organizations have the same size, my organization has at least ten strong leaders, while the other group has only two or three. After a deeper look, I concluded that one of the main differences was that the organization wasn't learning. But what was causing a lack of learning in this organization? Here are the things I identified that are causing the team not to learn: 

  • Lack of accountability: The teams are organized by function, not in products aligned to the same code base. One team might work with new customers, another with existing customers; once the team that works with new customers wraps their work, it handovers the codebase to the team that maintains existing customers. A different team handles Defects and Incidents. The various teams that work on the code base "do not see" the impact of their work on the other teams and miss a valuable feedback loop for learning. 
  • Paternalistic leadership: The team's leaders do not work under the assumption that "people are intelligent and will figure it out"; they work for weeks on their own to simplify work, processes, and documentation before handing it over to their team. They do not challenge them with problems they must solve; they provide playbooks of solutions they must execute. 
  • Top-down leadership: Most people do not participate in decision-making. As a counterpart, the team takes a passive approach to work. They work in a reactive mode and rarely challenge other teams' decisions, negatively impacting them. 
Matias Lespiau

Matias Lespiau

Madrid, Spain