As a perpetual learner and a leader of a learning team it’s important to continuously live the learning. As such, I’m involved in two Learning Communities of Practice (LCoP). One is a group of leaders from the Building Collaborative Learning Teams workshop that have committed to continuing their learning. The other is a group of learners from the 2020 Strategic Human Resource Management post graduate certificate program cohort. In these LCoP we apply our learning to our own personal, team and organizational challenges.

 A tool that we discovered from the 5th Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies & Tools for Building a Learning Organization (1994), is called Exploring Your Own Story, and assists leaders in laying the groundwork for a systems understanding of a current situation. 

 Step 1: The first step is defining a chronic problem, of limited scope, whose history is known (p.104). It’s important not to sanitize the situation for political reasons or to bias it towards a particular solution, to not jump to conclusions, nor a solution- and to avoid blaming anyone (p.105). 

 Step 2: The second step is telling the story from many vantage points e.g. upper management , frontline workers, customers, etc., and most importantly to ask ourselves: “How did we (through our internal thinking, our processes, our practices, and our procedures) contribute to or create the circumstances we face now? (p.105)” to identify key themes and recurrent patterns. 

 Step 3: The next step is to make a list or draw a picture of the key factors that capture the problem and/or are critical to telling the story. The purpose of this step in the process is to:

  • Identify assumptions and hypotheses about root causes
  • Establish a sense of the boundaries & impacts
  • Illuminate varied perspectives
  • Lay the groundwork for selecting key factors

Step 4: The final step is to consider the overall situation, how these key factors relate to one another; common themes and a larger systemic picture (p.108). And perhaps most importantly, you will have a mutual sense of the story in the minds of the people in the room:  common ground for which to base your decisions on moving forward.

Having applied the Exploring Your Own Story to a recent challenge at Organizations by Design Inc. our understanding as a team at the end of the exercise, was very different from the problem we began exploring at the beginning. In addition to laying the groundwork for moving forward, there was a positive unintended learning that supported the ‘why’ we do this work at Organizations by Design Inc. that aligns with our purpose. Our purpose is to build personal, team and organizational development capacity with leaders, their teams and organizations facilitate the learning and change they seek!

To the learning!

 Nicole van Kuppeveld, OBD Thinking Partner

Source: 5th Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies & Tools for Building a Learning Organization (1994), p.104-108.

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