Creating A Learning Culture

In our previous article we spoke of the need to learn from mistakes and the importance of creating an environment in which everyone can learn form those mistakes. This, of course, requires you, as the Project Manager, to make sure that you are creating a learning culture within the project. Whereby, everyone has the opportunity to learn and develop both professionally and personally.

Understanding what a mistake is.

A mistake is a mistake – no matter how big it is!

In order to learn from mistakes, so as to not make people feel unduly under threat if a mistake occurs, the Project Management has to create an environment where mistakes are acceptable. Of course, to avoid creating an atmosphere where a laisez faire attitude becomes the norm, you’ll need to clarify what you mean by a mistake. A mistake can be defined as an “error or fault in a thought or action”, such an occurrence can be tolerated; whereas what could be simply described as sloppy work leading to an error or fault, of course, should never be tolerated. That’s not to say that dealing with a sloppy work needs to be significantly different to dealing with mistakes. It’s just that when dealing with sloppy work you have to make sure that the person(s) responsible understand that failing to be far more diligent could seriously affect their position in the team.

Promoting the learning culture.

Here are our 5 points for creating a learning culture in projects you’re the manager for:

  1. Lead by example - being prepared to admit your mistakes, whilst also explaining how you rectified them.

  2. Create an environment encouraging openness – do this by being attentive and supportive, not dismissive, when staff tell you about their mistakes and help them to concentrate on correcting the mistake.

  3. Accentuate the positive – stress with all staff what has been learned from the mistake and, especially, how a repetition of the mistake can be avoided.

  4. Maintain informal contacts with staff – some staff will be more willing to admit to a mistake informally than during, say, a meeting or review.

  5. Don’t make scapegoats – never blame individuals or try to make examples of people who make mistakes in front of others. Mistakes are opportunities to learn from, not witch-hunts!