So, after mastering the first three capabilities of process design, problem solving and knowledge sharing, the next logical question would be “how do we develop these high velocity skills in others?”
Leaders in most organizations are tasked with setting goals and objectives, allocating the proper resources to meet these goals and objectives as well as setting the emotional tone for the organization they lead. Leaders in high velocity organizations do all of these things, but it is what they do in addition to these things that sets them apart. Leaders in high velocity organizations add to the professional development of who they are responsible for, so that the organization's ability to be self-correcting, self-improving and self- innovating can be spread throughout the organization and be practiced more consistently at all levels.
I believe it is critical that leaders "learn how to learn" first in order to become effective teachers. This may sound like a ridiculous statement, as we all know that most corporate executives are already highly educated. The education I am talking about is not necessarily the kind you get at a University Executive MBA program, though. To obtain this type of learning, leaders must “Genshu Gembutsu”, go see at the source, and master the first three Capabilities of process design, problem solving and sharing knowledge by practicing them on the operations floor first hand. Only after a leader has truly been immersed in these capabilities and understands their true meaning can they effectively teach them to others.
Most people define learning too narrowly and end up only focusing and solving problems in the external environment. As we’ve already seen, problem solving is important, but to perpetuate learning throughout an organization, leaders need to also reflect critically on their own behavior, identify how they may be contributing themselves to the organizations problems and then change how they act. Double loop learning is a key concept to achieving effective learning. Chris Argyris, James Bryant Conant Professor at the Harvard Business School, discusses this concept in depth in his article on “Teaching Smart People how to Learn”. He describes single loop learning as similar to a thermostat kicking on the heater when the temperature goes below 68 degrees, while double loop learning would be a thermostat that could ask why it was set to 68 degrees in the first place. Double loop learning is really having the ability to question and challenge our assumptions, many times even what we consider common sense assumptions. Argyris argues that highly skilled and educated professionals are usually very proficient at single loop learning and have had many successes in their career using the single loop methodology. However, because they have not had many failures, they also have not been able to learn from failures and often become defensive when failure does inevitably occur making them now less likely to be open to the double loop learning process.
A good rule to live by in becoming a transformational leader is to manage as if you had no power over subordinates. Get out to the floor and sell your ideas, better yet, lead your team to develop the ideas themselves without manipulating them. They will always see through hidden motives or agendas. Be a teacher who facilitates discovery through double loop learning rather than one who dictates solutions and you will get lasting solutions.