IT ExcellenceLearning Organizations

IT Operational Excellence: Learning Organization

This is part of a continuing series with Bob Anderson, IT Operational Excellence, presented by Anne Grybowski.

If we do not take the time to instill our employees with information necessary to do their jobs, we have no one to blame but ourselves when something goes awry.  Bob Anderson notes that structure is necessary for communication, and a learning organization is the perfect place to start.  Information should start at the top and work its way through an organization.  Follow ups and reviews are necessary to ensure that all employees are on the same page.  We need to be asking ourselves one question: how do we keep improving skills?

When we say “Learning Organization,” this implies that people in the organization are going to get information that they previously did not have.  They are going to learn something.  When we say “Organization,” that means this is the entire IT organization, not just one group, but everyone in IT.  We talked about being able to take key knowledge components and processes and codifying them.  What this means is that we have our knowledge management component within our company.  However, having the knowledge is not the same as “learning it” for that purpose we need policies, procedures, management, tracking and the proper deployment mechanisms like “Learning Management Systems” (LMS). This provides the foundations to deploy knowledge efficiently within the IT Organization in the form of specific “learning”. You need an inventory of what knowledge is necessary for people to do their jobs efficiently and also a lexicon for each appropriate IT function where people use the same language for communicating so it is not like many people speaking foreign languages to each other.

Critical Success Factors:  Assessment and Training

The IT Operational Excellence Puzzle discussed in this series by Bob Anderson.
The IT Operational Excellence Puzzle discussed in this series by Bob Anderson.

Certification and training in areas such as best practices, ITIL Service Management, Applications Support Operational Knowledge,  Project Management, etc. will allow your organization to maintain a competitive edge by eliminating wasted time and error from lack of knowledge.  Anderson reminds us that it is also important to keep knowledge and training have the appropriate mechanisms to keep them updated so that  changes can be easily made when changes are necessary.

Internal and external training courses are the best way to prepare your employees while at the same time gauging areas of strengths and weaknesses.  Anderson suggests using your own employees as instructors whenever possible.  People within the organization in areas of infrastructure, application support, project management, or any other area may already hold key knowledge in a specific area needed for the entire group. Having your own people train the rest of your employees is a cost and time effective way of up-skilling your organization.

Training can also show you what areas your employees may need extra help with.  The greater the understanding of the training need in specific areas, the greater benefit the training session will produce.  If a misstep occurs, the employee who made the misstep cannot be blamed if his/her training needs were not properly addressed.  It is the duty of the organization to take a skills inventory of employees just as you would take an inventory of physical items in your office.  As Anderson notes, this allows you focus not only on what knowledge is needed and by whom, but also who within the organization can be internal trainers.  Taking the initiative to find out what employees need to successfully complete their jobs is highly suggested because people are often too afraid to come forward with questions or concerns for fear that it may reflect negatively on them.  One or more individuals should be officially responsible for tracking what is needed, when the appropriate training is delivered and tracking who completed what training courses.  Furthermore, handing out certificates of accomplishment will make your employees proud.  People desire to succeed by human nature, and this desire can be used to benefit your company.

Your learning organization must be structured in order for it to succeed.  What, when, at what level, and how are we learning all this?  Anderson calls on us to use the good  communication, both verbal and written to determine who needs what and if they got what they needed.  Also, you should know at what time your organization should be learning certain things to avoid overload.  Learning should, according to Anderson, be a part of individual performance review requirements.  In short, there is no excuse for not supporting a learning organization.  If no one takes time to learn, everyone will have to take the time to clean up the mess.

The next and concluding article in our series will discuss how all pieces of the IT Operational Excellence Puzzle fit together.


Robert Anderson’s Bio:

Bob Anderson has been with Computer Aid, Inc. since 1988.    The majority of his 38 years of IT experience have been spent as a senior executive in large IT organizations.  In addition to being published, Anderson has been the principal architect of CAI’s process management, event tracking, and resource management tool, “Tracer” and most recently created a free assessment survey to help organizations recognize where and how they can improve their operations.  He has also built CAI’s Production Support & Training department.  Anderson is also a decorated US Marine.  He and his wife have two grown daughters and reside in Boiling Springs, PA. 

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